Promoting sustainable and ecotourism will finally contribute to address the burning issues such as alleviation of poverty, high unemployment/underemployment level of the youth from island nations who are involved in this project, said Palitha Gurusinghe, President, Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation, while welcoming all the delegates attending the International Conference on sustainable tourism agents in rural societies(STARS), recently held in Kandy and Horton Plains.
While thanking the Education, Culture and Audiovisual Agency of the European Union (EU) and Ms. Santa Puce, International Project Director of Fundación General de la Universidad de La Laguna located in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain who has taken a great pain to move the project in a very professional manner, Mr Gurusinghe further stressed that this conference had turned out to be a historical landmark in the global tourism scenario.
The event was hosted by Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF), the pioneer National Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka (www.ecotouismsrilanka.net) in association with Education, Culture and Audiovisual Agency of the European Union (EU) and Fundación General de la Universidad de La Laguna located in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain.
In addition the event had been supported by Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka (RUSL) and Department of Trade Commerce and Tourism, Central Provincial Council.
Youth Delegates from 07 (Seven) Island Nations of Canary and Tenerife Islands, (Spain), Madeira Island (Portugal), New Caledonia Island (France), the Solomon Islands (Oceania), Budeo Islands, Chile (Americas), Sri Lanka and Bali, (Indonesia-Asia) participated in this Conference. Apart from, a cross section of participants representing the Universities, Provincial Councils, environmental and conservation organizations, academia and scholars also attended the conference representing Sri Lanka.
Addressing the gathering, Santa Puce, the International Project Manager and Coordinator of Erasmus+, Fundación General de la Universidad de La Laguna located in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain, said “”Sustainable Tourism Agents in Rural Societies” or STARS during the next year will work with the sustainable tourism hikes as a powerful tool for local development and youth empowerment. Being a project co-funded by “Erasmus+” programme of the European Commission and managed by NGOs, social enterprises, universities and public bodies, we decided took at the bigger picture and focus on the rest of the world and especially on sustainable tourism best practices developed by youth. It is a moment to put global challenges and local development at the centre of our activities in 2016/2017”.
Mr. Upali Ratnayake, Director Planning and Tourism Development, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) representing the Chairman, SLTDA, remarked: “The concept of Ecological Tourism or popularly known as Ecotourism is a ‘new dimension of the global tourism industry in which selected sites and locations and sometimes entire geographical zones are being preserved for travelers to visit and appreciate them in their pristine natural beauty. Ecotourism is also defined as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the culture, environment and improves the welfare of the local community”.
The second part of the conference was held in Misty Hills Bungalow owned and managed by B.M. Mohideen, the Chairman of Misty Hills Community Tourism Organization, located at Udaweriya Estate off Ohiya, situated in the buffer zone of Horton Plains National Park. Here, the delegates were fascinated by the panoramic views of Sri Lanka mountainous range and they were given a wonderful opportunity to interact with the plantation youth living in the area.