Tourism: Key to Development in Sri Lanka
Tourism´s role as a key driving force for development was highlighted last month at Sri Lanka Expo 2012 and its adjoining Trade, Investment and Tourism Symposium, held in Colombo from 28th – 30th March. These events sought to promote and re-position the trade, investment and tourism capabilities of Sri Lanka in a time of national development and strong regional growth.
The events, which attracted over 1300 foreign investors and buyers, were organised by the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) in a bid to promote Sri Lanka to the international community through a number of symposiums, key note addresses, corporate events and networking sessions. Tourism development was an area of particular focus during the Symposium, along with global trends in trade, investment opportunities and export quality.
Sri Lanka, which in 2011 recorded 850 000 international tourist arrivals (an increase of 30% on 2010 figures), has taken a grass roots approach to tourism development to ensure that economic benefits contribute to community development and poverty reduction. As well as this, a focus on infrastructure development, air connectivity and rural planning have encouraged the development of the sector.
Reflecting on the peace which has come to rest on the country following the end of three decades of civil unrest, Mr. Xu Jing, Director of UNWTO´s Regional Programme for Asia and the Pacific, commended Sri Lanka for its development and highlighted the potential of tourism to be a strong contributor to socio-economic development.
¨Sri Lanka is truly blessed with a unique combination of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, ¨ Mr. Xu Jing said. ¨The Government of Sri Lanka has acknowledged that tourism is a multi-sector industry that cannot be separated from other major social and economic activities.
“Tourism is about more than hotels, travel agencies and tour guides. Tourism means trade, export, jobs and national development.¨
Evidently, this sentiment was shared among international attendees. The Expo and Trade Symposium were deemed a success for the country, and are said to have increased confidence among the international community in Sri Lanka as a producer and exporter of quality products, including tourism.
This is good news for Sri Lanka, a country which is strategically positioned in South Asia, an area UNWTO predicts to be the world´s fastest growing sub-region by 2030.