Tourism will play a leading role when expanding the economy towards the village
Tourism will play a leading role in the economic strategy of expanding the economy centred in Colombo to the villages, says Anura Dissanayake, the leader of the National People’s Power.
He said this yesterday (27th) at the tourism entrepreneurs’ meeting at the Galadhari Hotel in Colombo. The Chairman of the Economic Policy Committee of the National People’s Power, Prof. Anil Jayantha, the Member of Parliament, Dr Harini Amarasuriya, Dr Shantha Jayaratne, and a group of academics and a large number of tourism entrepreneurs participated in the event.
NPP leader Anura Dissanayake said, “There are a lot of people we have already met and discussed some problems in the tourism sector with us, and there are many others who are meeting us for the first time to discuss and engage in conversation with us. Thanks to everyone who participated in this event. Here we hope to listen to you more and briefly present some points related to our vision.
Before the covid epidemic and the Easter attack, what place did tourism have in the economy? The largest number of tourists came to Sri Lanka in 2018. About 2.3 million tourists came, and the country earned an income of about 4.3 billion dollars. It contributed about 4.9% to the gross national product. They had provided direct and indirect jobs to around 400,000 who had made it their livelihood. From these figures and information, it is clear that the tourism sector holds an important place in the economy from any angle. Among the many fundamentals of our economy, we need to decide where to place the tourism sector. That is where our economic strategy becomes essential.
We must consider several significant areas when making our economic strategy. We believe that the location of our country, the natural resources of this country, the nature of human resources, the nature of geopolitics and the civilization that this country has built are essential.
Among these fields, we think that tourism belongs to the area of natural resources of the country. Our country has magnificent beaches. It has several climate zones, incredible biodiversity, a lot of ancient heritage and the people’s hospitality is highly valued. Tourism built on natural resources will be one of the most critical sectors of our country.
The long-term economic consequences we currently face have centred around two major problems. There is a shortage of dollars as well as a shortage of rupees. The most talked about is the shortage of dollars. But even the rupees used in the country are in short supply. Our foreign trade loss in 2021 is 8.2 billion dollars. 6.7 billion dollars will be spent to pay the loan instalments. That means an additional amount of more than 14.8 billion dollars is required for these two things alone. Nearly 7 billion dollars was received from foreign workers to cover it, and 4 billion dollars was received from tourism. Even then, there is a deficit of nearly 3.5 billion dollars for these two fields alone.
In solving the dollar crisis that our country is facing, some answers can be found through tourism development. But there is a bigger crisis regarding the rupee than the dollar crisis. Total government revenue in 2021 was 1.4 trillion. The government’s total expenditure was 3.5 trillion, excluding the payment of loan instalments. In other words, when the treasury receives Rs. 40/-, the government spends Rs. 100/-. That means there is a 60% revenue deficit. A large portion of government revenue comes from taxes. Tax revenues increase due to economic expansion. If the economy shrinks, revenues to the treasury will fall. IMF has stated that our economy will shrink by 8.7% this year. That means the national income is predicted to shrink to 72 billion dollars. Then the revenue to the treasury will fall further. Spreading tourism to the village is also important in solving the rupee crisis.
Protecting this land is a major challenge. 11% of the land is used for our agriculture. It is impossible to develop the land for agriculture. Because of this, tourism is an area that could expand the economy.
Rural poverty and loss of new economic opportunities for rural youth is a serious situations in people’s lives. Because of this, nearly one million people have made the three-wheeler their economic livelihood. One million were drawn there by the failure to create new job opportunities for the youth. From that point of view, tourism is important for providing job opportunities in rural areas.
Now we have reached the peak of Colombo centred economy. Due to this, the economy has to be expanded to the rural people. Tourism is an important sector for that. There are a large number of villages and towns that can be promoted as tourist villages across the country. It is important to develop our economy into a tourism economy. It is necessary to bring tourists for that. Related to that, there are fields like natural beauty, the study of building civilization and the study of biodiversity. For that, first of all, the image of Sri Lanka is very important. Now there is a very bad picture. The World Bank. after giving a loan to bring fertilizer. said they would send a team to see if the money is pilfered.
In the ongoing discussion before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, there is also talk about avoiding economic crimes to protect civil and human rights. So they look into economic crimes. What are the European Parliament, the English Parliament talking about us? What is being talked about us in Kenya? What did the Prime Minister of Bangladesh say about us? No matter how favourable an ecosystem and resource system are for the tourism industry, if Sri Lanka does not have a good image, the tourism industry will be hit hard. This is why we want to build the image of Sri Lanka about tourism. That is the first thing to do.
Secondly, this sector should be protected in case of any economic tremor. For example, the fuel shortage affects all sectors, including the industrial system of our country. However, if tourism is an important part of the economic strategy, priority should be given to this sector. The Asia Cup cricket tournament was supposed to be held in Sri Lanka but was moved to Dubai under the current situation. But because of this, Sri Lanka Cricket received an additional 2 million dollars, the Chairman of the Cricket Institute had said. It is important if you think about cricket only,. But if you think of it as a country, there was a problem that a tourist could not come to. If about eight teams came to Sri Lanka for the Asian Cup, now the image of Sri Lanka will be built as a safe country. But the match was played in Dubai and advertisements were published saying “Visit Sri Lanka”. During the cricket tournament, the tourists should have been shown that the country was secure for them. If you think only about the cricket institution, holding the match in Dubai is cheaper. But if tourism is a part of the country’s overall economy, then the match should be played here. What is the country’s image if it is not possible to provide and manage accommodation and transportation facilities for eight teams? If tourism is an important sector of the economy, priority should be given to protecting this sector in case of any disturbance.
Thirdly, tourism is a sensitive field that is very turbulent. This field may fluctuate depending on the situation in Sri Lanka, such as the Easter attack, as well as the situation in the world. In such cases, a care fund should be established to provide stable care. In 2007, the banking system itself was endangered by the financial collapse of the United States. But the US government released 700 billion dollars to the banking system. There was a lot of criticism for spending this money to save the banking system when ordinary citizens were in crisis. But in order to secure the economic system, that government bore the cost.
It is our responsibility to protect tourism in this way. It is important to have a tourism protection fund in situations like the recent crises that have affected the tourism industry. During the covid epidemic, almost every country used money from the treasury to protect their economies. We would create a protection fund to face such situations. Tourism is not limited to a narrow field. It is a collection of many fields like transportation, health, and entertainment. Therefore, a centralized centre is needed for tourism. Therefore, a tourism commission should be appointed to represent all these sectors. And we need a commission representing the groups engaged in this field. Such commissions are needed to resolve internal conflicts and differences in this field. And more than 99% of this sector depends on the private sector. If so, our primary role is to develop related infrastructure. The fifth place in our vision regarding tourism is dedicated to this.
Sixth, we need to change the attitude towards tourism in our history. The engagement of women in this field is limited to 6%. But the attitude in this regard is not good. Education and literature should be directed to develop those attitudes.
We are involved in the tourism industry by choosing these six areas as a political movement. We have a vision of building the country’s image, intervening to solve crises in the field, and establishing development under our control. We have a vision of where this industry should be taken by 2030. Our role is to set goals, create infrastructure, create attitudinal changes, provide financial facilities and create legal regulations. We are ready to listen to comments, proposals and discussions.
Do not change these fields following
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