Tourism as it effects Sri Lanka
By Oscar E V Fernando
United Nations in recognition of the advantages of tourism has fixed a World Tourism Day and this year Sri Lanka is hosting the event on 27th September. Mr Ban Ki-Moon the Secretary General of the UN says this about tourism-Tourism has proved one of the leading ways for the least ?developed countries to increase their participation in the global economy. India is going a long way in developing tourism, and it must be noted that Indians are very conscious about preserving their culture and civilization.
There is prejudice on tourism among some sections in Sri Lanka-perhaps a fall out from the colonial domination, but India too was a colonized country. Should we fear other cultures and civilizations with different ways of conduct and behavior if we have strong beliefs of our own?
It is a fact beyond doubt that tourism can contribute to mutual understanding of ethical values common to humanity, such as tolerance and respect for the diversity of religions; this is possible if tourism is carried out with an open mind, as it covers many activities common to humanity such as those connected with rest, relaxation, sports, and access to culture and nature.
Consideration must be given to two sides of the story of tourism-from the point of view of the host country and that of the tourists. Tourists are bound to be concerned about-attacks in host countries-safety-lack of proper information-delayed insurance facilities-kidnappings and abduction. In turn host countries would expect tourists to- abstain from vandalism of properties of heritage value-to be sensitive of conduct which though normal to their culture may be inimical to the host country-ensure they do not commit any act considered criminal by the host country-refrain from trafficking in illicit drugs, arms, antiques, protected species and products and substances that are dangerous or prohibited by national regulations. Concerns of both host countries and tourists must be the close concern of stakeholders in tourism.
Tourism is sometimes associated with exploitation of human beings, particularly sexually when applied to children; this is accepted internationally as a negation of the benefits of tourism and must not be encouraged by the host country, but be subject to severe penalties.
Travel for purposes of religion, health, education and cultural or linguistic exchanges are particularly beneficial forms of tourism, which deserve encouragement.
In a country like Sri Lanka that will be benefited by tourism to generate much needed income, tourism should be taken as a subject in schools curriculum and children educated as to its good effects and warned as to its adverse effects also through the print and electronic media.
Income derived from exhibiting sites should be used at least partly for the preservation of these sites and for developing cultural products, crafts and folklore so exhibited.
Especially to overcome the prejudices that have been inculcated in the minds of peoples on ill effects of tourism, people living in tourist sites must be made aware of the economic, social and cultural benefits derived from local tourism, with particular emphasis for job creation to raise their standard of living.
The World Tourism Organization WTO defines tourists as people who travel to and stay in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes, not necessarily for remuneration.
Tourism generates income through consumption of goods and services by tourists, taxes levied on related businesses, and from opportunities for employment in service industries, such as transportation, hotel accommodation, bars, entertainment venues, spas and resorts-all relating to tourists.
In broad usage national tourism comprises domestic and outbound tourism; international tourism covers inbound and outbound tourism.
Recently, the tourism industry has shifted from the promotion of inbound tourism to the promotion of intrabound tourism-a term used to more closely describe residents within the country engaging in travel within for leisure, because many countries are experiencing tough competition for inbound tourists.
In considering promotion of tourism, essential areas to look for are-availability of disposable income, meaning money to spend on non-essentials; time off from work and other responsibilities; availability of transport and accommodation; legal clearance to travel; health and inclination to travel; freedom for citizens to travel abroad.
Attractions for tourists are-beaches with coastal resorts; sight seeing great buildings and works of art; learn new languages, experience new cultures and taste new foods
European tourism is said to have originated with pilgrimages, although undertaken for religious reasons, pilgrimages are a kind of holiday, which term is derived from ‘holy day’. In developing intrabound tourism existing pilgrim centers in Sri Lanka could be made attractive with proper transportation, accommodation, bank facilities, souvenir stalls etc as witnessed in tourist religious resorts internationally. This should bring back spirituality, a vanishing element among youth, as well as fun, with the minds of youth shifted from guns and bullets!
Health tourism has taken on added interest today; it is associated with spas, having supposedly health-giving mineral waters to treat various diseases.
Advancement of technology has enabled mass travel for groups of people to see places in the shortest possible time, so that a greater number of people enjoy the benefits of leisure travel. With increase in tourism, tourist agencies can flourish enabling employment for many.
Other phenomena that could develop the tourist industry are paid holidays for those not having disposable incomes, to be settled later. There is also the practice of tour operators booking tickets in advance and then marketing it to potential travelers.
People tour for various reasons, these are described as-dark tourism where people travel to sites associated with death and suffering, such as railways and plane disasters-drug tourism, to use drugs in certain countries-sex tourism-independent travel where people select their own accommodation and transport-pilgrimage tourism-sacred travel where believers travel to and perform rituals at religious sites-shopping tourism such as Dubai Shopping Festival-Vacilando where people discover in the process of travel- considered more important than traveling to a specific destination; hence is the importance of web-based tourism products and services to enable potential tourists to make choices.
Tourism so widely popular all over the world and was at its height until very recently in Sri Lanka, has now taken a nose dive. This writer attended a meeting at the Tourist Board chaired by Renton de Alwis the Board’s chairman-a man with a vision and a mission. He has formulated a plan to revive the crisis ridden tourism in Sri Lanka-a crisis brought about by continuing hostilities on the ethnic field, now enhanced by potential air raids over the country.
This crisis has brought about 30% decrease in tourist arrivals in the first half of 2007, and hotel occupancies are as low as 35 % for city hotels and 10-20 % for resort hotels.
A two pronged approach for survival is-seeking support of government and other stake holders in the industry and an intensive promotional campaign, targeting-Domestic Tourists-Sri Lanka Diaspora inviting visitors and friends to Sri Lanka-Professional Groups with world view-Sports Fans-Students and Youth and Volunteers; much prominence is given the tourist potential in India.
It has been observed that domestic tourism has increased lately, mainly due to increase in disposable income in the hands of these potential tourists; leisure sector was so far concentrating on foreign tours. It is contended that domestic tourism forms the basis for international tourism-a matter that should receive serious attention by tourist stake holders in Sri Lanka.
Requirements for domestic tourism are-to encourage travel during week days-easy information as to locations and types of hotels-information on activities within and outside such hotels and locations-costs-overcoming fear of star class hotels-overcoming perception of inflated pricing-overcome fear of traveling to some parts of the country. Together with these;
Hotel owners to provide attractive packages-penetrate into the potential segments such as retired parents whose children desire to give them an outing, pay later schemes-inducements to travel within-make domestic tourists aware of existing hotels-communicate affordability of hotel occupancy and promote a patriotic feeling to revive the industry.
Due to excessively negative media reports abroad regarding the security situation, the Tourist Board has identified the Sri Lanka Diaspora-more than 2 million abroad, as a segment to promote tourism abroad; this is to bring a friend or friends over here during summer and winter holidays: special reward packages await this Diaspora, such as;
Buy 4 for non-Sri Lankans and get 1 free ground and air ticket package-discount vouchers by hotels and shops-a raffle draw with attractive prices in the offing-certificate from Sri Lanka Tourism certifying the participants as ‘Prime Partners of Sri Lanka Tourism’.
* The audience targeted will be-Sri Lankans living in Australia, Canada, USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan, Middle East and Italy-students-foreign friends of Sri Lanka.
Communication of the campaign is sought from-Sri Lanka Missions abroad-advertising agents in foreign countries-News letters and direct mailers through Sri Lankan associations, temples and restaurants, Airlines and specialised travel agents on Sri Lanka-special gatherings or briefings for Sri Lankans with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Missions-web site-local media conferences-email correspondence.
‘Tourism opens doors for women’ is the theme for this year’s World Tourism Day falling on 27th September, and hosted by Sri Lanka this year. The emphasis will be the enhanced role of women in tourism, details of which are accessible on the web site- www.tourismgender.com
To increase public awareness of the interrelation between tourism and its beneficial role for women, World Tourism Organization WTO will launch an online photo contest to show women playing leadership roles at all levels within the sector. The 12 selected winners will be exhibited during the UNWTO General Assembly in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, in November.
WTO is committed to the promotion of gender equality, empowerment of women and the elimination of gender disparity in education is the third UN Millennium Development Goal. All women’s associations in Sri Lanka are called upon to get involved in the various programs planned to coincide with World’s Tourism day. The Tourist Board plans to have maximum international media for the respective programs for women such as fashion, designs, drama, singing, painting, drums, media etc. More than 600 leading women professional are expected to arrive in Sri Lanka for the events. Auspiciously the England cricket tour LSR Marathon and Sri Lankan Airlines Golf Classic are coinciding with World Tourism Day celebrated in Sri Lanka on 27th September.
It is further planned to; bring in celebrities from abroad for drum festivals, cultural shows, and guided meditation sessions to coincide with the events.
Tourist arrivals worldwide grew at an average rate of 4.3% per annum between 1990 and 2000. This trend has led the World Tourism Organization to predict that by 2020 tourist arrivals around the world would increase over 200 per cent. The growth forecast is even more spectacular in the case of East Asia and the Pacific region whose international tourist arrivals are expected to experience over 400 per cent growth from 105 million in 2000 to 438 million in 2020.
The Internet has transformed the world into a global village; it provides potential tourists with visual information on destinations throughout the world.
To take advantage of the internet all hotels and other tourist stakeholders are advised to seek listing in the website www.bestof-srilanka.com
A volunteer team is envisaged for Sri Lankans to get involved in promoting tourism; those over the age of 18 and are interested could log onto www.srilanka.travel/volunteers
Such volunteers can get involved in-PR and media related work-Crisis management-Generating creative and innovative ideas-Web initiatives-Community service projects-Human resources development-Advertising and communications.
Volunteers may have the following opportunities.
• Recognition as a “Friend of Sri Lanka”.
• Ability to network with other like-minded Sri Lankans.
• Be a part of nation building through tourism.
For the sake of income and employment generation all Sri Lankans and especially stakeholders in tourism must ensure that this work plan attains its successful completion.
- Asian Tribune -