Integrated and Inclusive Approach for PEOPLE CENTERED SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN SRI LANKA
Colombo University Community Extension Center
University of Colombo
Date: 24th Nov 2021
Tourism is a multifaceted and interconnected dynamic industry. It can generate an innumerable contribution to a country or destination, in terms of socio-economic development, cultural enhancement and environmental-friendly improvement, if it is properly guided. More specifically, tourism has a great potential to be a stimulator in providing manifold income and revenue generation means, employment opportunities, sources for foreign exchange earnings and finally direct such contributions for economic growth and development.
The Current National Policy Framework of Sri Lanka: Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour with the Ten Key Policies has kept a great expectation on tourism industry and its development along with the intention of increasing annual tourist arrivals to 7 million to add a foreign exchange inflow of USD 10 billion to the domestic economy (National-Policy-Framework-Vistas-of-Prosperity-and-Splendour-Summary.pdf, pp-37-38, 2019).
On the basis of National Policy Framework and recent Tourism Strategic Action Plan of Sri Lanka (Jan 2020 – DEC ‘2023), People Centric Tourism Development can only be ensured through several key practical implementation and applications:
- Global Tourism: Recent Trends & Patterns
The impact of different waves of COVID 19 Pandemic has devasted the impressive growth performance of global tourism from the beginning of 2020. As tourism necessarily involves people-to-people interactions and the movement of people travelling from their place of usual residence to destinations within their own country and to other countries, global tourism has become one of the most hard-hit industries in the world.
SRI LANKA TOURISM: Recent Trends & Patterns
Pre-COVID scenario, for past ten years, from 2009 to 2018, tourist arrivals of Sri Lanka increased by nearly 475% while foreign exchange earnings of tourism increased by 1155%. On the similarly, direct and indirect employment (total employment) of tourism industry increased by more than 200% while the accommodation capacity of formal sector increased by more than 70%.
As a result of this impressive performance, Sri Lanka Tourism has become the 3rd highest foreign exchange earner of the country while being a significant contributor for reducing the deficit of trade account of the country.
Sources: SLTDA (2018) and Central Bank (2018)
It has been estimated that the majority of total of employees as direct and indirect, and also formal and informal sector employees are severely affected due to the impact of COVID 19 pandemic. On average more than 90% of total employment of the industry is so vulnerable and the majority of them are currently unemployed. As estimated, the total affected unemployment of the tourism industry due to COVID-19 is nearly 350,000-400,000 employees. In addition, foreign exchange earnings from the industry have reached its near zero level. Otherwise, the estimated foreign exchange earnings of year 2020 and 2021 must be at least 4 US$ Billion.
EMERGING TRENDS AND PATTERNS IN POST COVID GLOBAL TOURISM
Even for the tourism industry has to faced a sudden shocks due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, there has been emerging new trends and patterns in global tourism.
- Higher demand for personalized services, hospitality and caring
- Demand for more vaccinated destinations
- More health concerns on food & beverage consumption
- Higher attention on safety and hygiene protocols
- Switching from entertainment to memorable experience and enlightenment
- Higher demand for more heterogenous nature and culture based tourism services
- Increasing demand for wellness, spiritual and agri- and nature-based tourism
- More attraction for sustainable tourism practices
- Stagnating MICE Tourism market
- Less attractive for mega events in tourism industry
- Shrinking group travels
- Leisure travel towards more safer destinations.
- Less attractive for cruise travels by affluent and high-end tourists
- Expensive air traveling
- Longer stay by tourists in safer destinations
- Attractive for sustainability related experiential travels
- Ensure fair-trade and equal opportunity/ pro-poor employment.
- SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
“Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities” – UNWTO, 2015
Sustainable tourism is the guiding principle that leads and influences the tourism industry towards a holistic and responsible way of developing the destination to ensure long-term sustainability. This approach would ensure that
- Environmental Protection: Tourism makes an opportunity for the optimal use of environmental resources in tourism development, by maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural resources and biodiversity -.
- Social Equity: Tourism development ensure the protection of socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
- Economic Growth and Well-Being: The industry ensures viable, long-term economic operations, providing economic benefits to all stakeholders that are distributed fairly, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.
On the basis of these fundamental requirements, various initiations and consequent implementation for “Making Sri Lanka Tourism Sustainable: Sharing and Caring” have been carried out by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and the Ministry of Tourism (https://www.sltda.gov.lk/en/sustainable-tourism) in considering the concept of sustainability as one of the key driving forces to preserve and conserve the country’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage for the future of tourism and the prosperity of the country.
On this purpose, the urgent need for ground level awareness with right knowledge contribution for necessary application of sustainable tourism development practices is decisively imperative for successful proper planning, management and implementation. The appropriate well balance approach in tourism development must be carried out by through a right policy mix focusing on long-term sustainability of the industry.
“Harnessing the benefits of Tourism will be critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the post-2015 development agenda”.
UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon on World Tourism Day 2014
PEOPLE CENTERED SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN SRI LANKA
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development focuses with the ambitious set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets for the people-centered, transformative and integrated development to end extreme poverty, inequality and injustice, and fix climate changes until 2030. In particular, sustainable tourism has been included as targets in Goals 8, 12 and 14 on inclusive and sustainable economic growth, sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and the sustainable use of oceans and marine resources, respectively.
Tourism is a multifaceted and interconnected dynamic industry. It can generate numerous contributions for socio-economic development, cultural enhancement and environmental-friendly improvement through its Backward and Forward Linkages together with its Direct, Indirect and Induced Effects.
CAPITALIZING THE GLOBAL TRENDS FOR PEOPLE CENTERED SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT IN SRI LANKA
People Centered Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka can be developed through the promotion of specific types of tourism activities using the available tourism potential of the country and focusing the growing global tourism demand trends and patterns.
The Rise of Silver Tourism: “Silver Tourism” is to be one of the instrumental market segments for promotion of People Centered Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka. The population worldwide is showing an ageing tendency, both in developed and developing countries. The tourism stakeholders of Sri Lanka must find a collective and coordinated effort to grab this Big Leap in global tourism.
Growing Silver- Wellness Tourism: Wellness tourism is travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing. Global Wellness Institutes estimates that the wellness tourism is currently generating nearly US$ 650 billion to global market at present. Furthermore, it will grow more than twice as fast as general tourism. It also has an ability to create a Powerful Intersection of two large and growing industries: the US$ 2.6 trillion tourism industry and the US$ 4.2 trillion wellness industry.
The growing interest in, health-positioned nutrition, as well as immunity-boosting, energy, gut health, and mood-enhancing supplements while suggesting the commercialization of traditional healing concepts (ayurvedic) and ingredients which are already highly embedded in local cultures and have a strong resonance with new post-COVID tourists and their travel demand patterns including healthy snacks and drinks, supplements and even ingestible beauty-positioned offerings.
Present government has well recognized the promotion of wellness tourism as a key strategic sector for Sri Lanka Tourism and more specifically, from the budget proposal of 2022. It is right time for us to take necessary actions in this regard. This Silver- Wellness Tourism can be developed as a major source of foreign exchange earnings of our country in near future.
Silver-Wellness Plus Agri Tourism
If Silver-Wellness Tourism is integrated with Agritourism, more specifically with the prevailing national agriculture campaign of Organic Food Practices then it can generate not only foreign exchange earning but also ensure more People Centered Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka.
Blessing with Spiritual Tourism
The concept of Spiritual Hospitality mainly focuses on providing quality hospitality services to the guest in spiritual environment and spiritual practices. Agri-tourism, Rural Tourism, Wellness Tourism and senior tourism can be integrated as a major complementary attraction for Spiritual Tourism of the country.
It is a reasonable doubt that Sri Lanka has successfully capitalized these potential niche market segments for Sri Lanka Tourism though the country is known as a land of spirituality with many places of worship, pilgrim centers and religious monuments etc. According to Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) annual statistical report, a very low percentage of tourist visits for religious & cultural purposes have been recorded between 2006 to 2019.
Key Strategic Actions for Capitalizing the Emerging Growing Opportunities
The key strategic actions in achieving of People’s Friendly Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka as mentioned in National Policy Framework of Sri Lanka: Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour through the combined promotion of Silver-Wellness-Spiritual and Agri (SWSA) Tourism in Sri Lanka in future can be highlighted as below:
- Right understanding and prioritization of tourism development on growing niche market segments as SWSA of the country
- Create effective and result-driven coordination among the key stakeholders under Public, Private and People Partnership.
- Promote local and foreign investors in these SWSA growing market segments in tourism industry.
- Develop modern promotional and marketing networks and social & other media platforms among the identified and relevant travel and destination agencies to attract foreign tourists.
- Ensure the development of related tourism infrastructure and physical facilities for these types of tourism market segments through an integrated tourism development framework.
- Formulate short-term, mid-term and long-term strategies that can enhance the product and service development of these tourism niche markets focusing on Accommodation, Activities, Accessibility (Connectivity), Amenities and also Attitudes of service providers.
- Integrate the national, regional and local tourism policies and strategies and applications to ensure People Cantered Sustainable Tourism Development of the country.
- Provide Integrated Quality Management Process and Value-Based Product Development in SWSA tourism sectors.
- Promote Outcome-Based Training for tourism human resource development