By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Sri Lanka is set to explore marine tourism once again with Asian Development Bank assistance as the country is blessed with plentiful and diverse coastal and marine resources having a high potential value for tourism,a top official of tourism disclosed.
Around 1,000 miles of coastal area in the country are extensively utilized for tourism product development. About 75 percent of the graded hotels in Sri Lanka and 80 percent of the hotel rooms are located in coastal areas
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTA) has appointed a committee to explore the potential of marine tourism as part of a marine tourism master plan for 2024 to develop with Asian Development Bank (ADB) assistance.
SLTDA Chairman Priyantha Fernando revealed that a marine tourism consultant will also be in Colombo on June 02 whose expertise is being sought.
“The level of investment needed is difficult to estimate at the moment,” Fernando said. “The last budget had allocated 50 million rupees which made it hard to make improvements. However, this year I believe we will spend 200 to 250 million on the development process.”
Sri Lanka’s coasts have been popular tourist attractions with coral and whale watching being activities that have generated significant interest among visitors.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which suffered immensely over the last few years due to the Easter attacks, the pandemic and a currency crisis, has seen some improvement in 2023 with the country on track to earning projected tourism revenues for the year, according to SLTDA.
A majority of tourists arriving in Sri Lanka so far in 2023 have been from Russia at 100,507 arrivals from January to May. One contributor to the increase in tourist revenue is expected to be the growth of marine tourism, SLTDA said.
However, in spite of the comparatively high resource base, Sri Lanka’s earnings from coastal and marine tourism still remains below true potential.
The beach holiday in Sri Lanka is popular among the predominantly Western European winter season tourists. It is evident from the high occupancies in the beach-oriented hotels in winter. Yet, more could be done.
The majority of tourists tend to fall into one of three market segments based on their needs and motivations: on shore, off-shore and inland.
Coastal and marine tourism covers the first two segments. In other words, if we view through a broader sense of tourism, coastal and marine forms part of a tourist’s experience rather than offering a separate experience of itself.
That’s important to understand and to accept it before examining the elements of an appropriate development agenda, he pointed out.
But we also want tourism sector -on shore, off-shore or inland – to grow on a sustainable basis. For that reason, we need to concern ourselves with four sets of conditions including contented visitors leaving Sri Lanka with expectations met or exceeded and coming again or recommending the country to others,
Profitable enterprises large and small, capable of satisfying tourists competitively but at a profit to sustain operations and to reinvest in the business, a nurtured environment – sensitively develop and manage our natural environment, and engaged communities were among the four factors .
Sustainable tourism proactively engages with local communities for economic benefit and through its actions should enhance a location as a place to live as well as a place to visit.