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Nautical Tourism and its potential in the economic development of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka, an island strategically located in the Indian Ocean possesses 1340km of pristine beaches and has all the resources to be a paradise for tourists from all over the world. In the perspective of tourism these nature-endowed beautiful beaches are currently used mainly as a mere leisure element such as seabathing, sunbathing, surfing, snorkling  etc.,

Dr.Dietmar Doering a foreign academic, who has made Sri Lanka his home, and also who pioneered his pet project of promoting sports tourism, has initiated  another project to lure  more tourists to Sri Lanka. In a report submitted by Dr. Doering entitled “Nautical Tourism and its potential in the economic Development of Sri Lanka” he emphasizes “with all  ingredients already provided by nature, it is time, we in Sri Lanka take a special interest in emphasizing that Sri Lanka really concentrate on developing the Nautical Tourism as a special niche in their new phase of Tourism Development”.

With a subtitle-“A proposal for a new tourism development to  think “ beyond beaches”, Dr. Doering introduces Nautical Tourism as a form of tourism which beside recreational navigation organized with one’s own or rented boats with facilities for accommodation and/or spending over nights on board includes also voyages organized by cruise ship owners and travel agencies.

He further says that these particular voyages are cruising-in “cabin-cruisers” designed specially for those tourists seeking rest and recreation tours – (e.g for touring in Oceans and Seas or in in-land water courses for recreation, for fishing, scuba diving, underwater diving and underwater photography etc.). These sea-going vessels – yachts and cruise-crafts and cruise boats and catamarans – do not compete for their berthing stations in busy harbours and ports. They have special bays and beaches where they “park” or anchor  their vessels while on their journeys. These small “harbours” they use for anchorages are called Marinas! Deriving from the word “Marine”, the Marinas specializes in the type of tourism, which are popularly indulged in France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Israel, USA, the United Arab Emirates – Dubai, Qatar as well as in Croatia, and Bulgaria. Ocean-Cruising Tours are becoming popular in Australia and in Japan too, in recent time!.

“Making a count on the marinas by region, according to the International Council of Maritime Association (or ICOMA as it is universally known by its abbreviations), in the year 2012 there were 4,500 marinas in the EU coastal and inland waters, with a turnover of 6 billion Euros for “ship-building” or manufacture of sea-going vessels for Nautical Touring!”. Around 2,000 marinas are seen in Northern Europe alone, with 800 marinas on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and 1,200 in the Mediterranean Sea”, he adds.

 Describing the situation in Europe where Nautical Tourism is developed to the full, as described above, he further says, in the East and South and South East Asia too, Nautical Tourism has taken hold in countries like Thailand, Malaysia and to a certain extent in Indonesia. However he emphasizes: “ in comparison to other countries in the Asian Region named above, Sri Lanka is seen lagging behind in grasping the evolving tendencies! Sri Lanka which carry a similar positive criteria for Nautical Tourism, being surrounded by beautiful vast stretches of sandy beaches similar to those in Malaysia, Thailand,  even those in  Maldives or Indonesia and Thailand, it is indeed unfortunate that Sri Lanka still lacks the interest, urge and the state focus to act positively to increase the numbers of the sea-travelling tourists. The statistics on nautical tourist arrivals are a real eye-opener, indeed! Malaysia enjoys arrivals of over 22 Million tourists per annum; Thailand is following with around 14 Million Sea-going Tourists, even tiny Maldives caters for over 1.2 Million Sea-Bound Tourists per annum. Sri Lanka as per actual figures – according to the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority – merely has under 2 Million over-all tourist arrivals, or maybe even a little less than that per annum! There is no mechanism even to separate the sea-going tourist arrivals and count them in Sri Lanka”.

He further says : “The reasons for this under performance are multiple. According to the opinions of international experts on tourism developments, the reasons behind this “lagging behind” is mainly due to lacking in suitable facilities for tourists as a whole. While the nations mentioned above do enjoy a larger “presence of shopping centers, entertainment areas, recreational facilities such as state of the art Spa’s and theme parks etc., Sri Lanka is far behind, still calling for action to develop similar infrastructures to cater to clients who are considered affluent and cash-strapped world-wide!”

 “We hereby call upon to focus on our principal reason that urgently call for the establishment of  Marinas for Nautical Tourism!  The elements of Nautical Tourism (yachting, sailing, anchoring of small and medium sea-crafts etc) are amply found here for one to focus on facilitating the  luxury yachts in the range of 40 to 100 ft of length. With facilities to accommodate sea craft of this category, this could be  the “big game changer” in attracting and enticing big spenders, we have been aspiring to host!,” he stresses.

He further adds: “Here is a good reason to remember that, that from time immemorial, Sri Lanka was in the middle of the so called Sea Lanes of Traveling – straddling the Silk Road – being the “supply Store of Fresh Water and Food & Fruit!” and also condiments and spices, ivory, gems and jewelry in the time of yore and the Terraces for supplying coffee, tea, rubber and coconut from the turn of the so called modern era! In a way of saying, all sea routes led to Sri Lanka, for reasons mentioned above and for repair of ships and the reasons of rest & recreation of  “mariners”. As such it is “natural” for Sri Lanka to engage in the build up of Marinas, which in fact are small harbors for exactly modern-kind of these luxury boats and cruise boats. It is self-explanatory that the owners of these yachts ( most times, they themselves are owners!) are the monied-type, and (as the saying goes) in their wake will come a total different class of investors and tourist to Sri Lanka.  We are talking about yachts in the value of 400.000 US Dollars on the average and some of those yachts costing over 3-Million US Dollars. Certainly these are on the top rung spend sin the world!. Similarly, Sri Lanka with its beautiful off shore landscape and the unique feature to entertain the world of nature lovers such as the rare blue whales throughout the year, according the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, and the total gamut of geo-physical features found, separated from each other by only about a 1-hour of traveling by car. All these factors would make Sri Lanka a prime destination for yachts tourism.”

Meanwhile he says that a Sri Lanka – German Consortium was willing to create the first-ever Marina in Sri Lanka, which would be combined with a mixed development project in Marawila, in the Puttalam district of the North Western Province. This project with a total estimated capital cost of around 130 Million US Dollars will consist of one Marina for 100 yachts, 2 condominiums with each 150 apartments and a 5 star hotel with 200 rooms. The Joint Venture company was willing to invest the estimated Capital and launch the Project no sooner they have the blessings of the authorities for the Project!

The components of the Project in brief, as a follows:


 The project will be entirely funded by sources from the private sector.  Certainly  without seeking any government funds to support it.

He also emphasises that the proposers do not seek any government funds to support in the development of it!

“A suitable solution to the general challenge of funding assistance for the private sector through the participation of the public is the Public Private Partnerships or PPP’s”

“Since Public Private Partnerships (or PPPs) are becoming more and more popular (the World-over), especially in significant infrastructure projects such as our development of yacht marinas, countries like Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Malta, Poland, USA and others are favouring PPPs in the development of yacht marinas. Considering the fact that Sri Lanka is currently heavily exposed to foreign debts and liable to payments of massive interest components in monthly instalments, the projection of PPPs in respect of funding yacht marinas may be workable only if the public contribution in respect of finance funding should be significantly low or even non-existent.”

He also adds that the government without being burdened in supporting through monetary means could on the other hand extend a very vital support for the realisation of marinas in Sri Lanka. This support he says could be in form of a one-stop approval procedure, as is performed by the Sri Lanka Board of Investment (SLBOI) which includes the whole approval process and covering all relevant authorities or line ministries. A fast track approval (like the above extended by the BOI) without major bureaucratic obstacles certainly support and convince potential international investors simply proving the adage: ‘Time is Money’.

It is also noted that partners in this mega project are AQUARIUS RESORTS (PVT) LTD – chaired by Dr. Dietmar Doering from Germany  and partnered by GESEED (PVT/LTD  – chaired by Mr. Hiran Jayakody, (who himself is a developer and well known entrepreneur in Sri Lanka.)

The Marina concept is a totally new Maritime concept for Sri Lanka since it is directly exposed to the Indian Ocean and modern technology in Harbour building is to be used to erect a Marina. This makes it safe to the environment and safe for the boat yard as well. This technology practically exists in Asian, European and American aeras and is suitable for the use in Sri Lanka as well.  In many European countries – Marinas are cornerstones for high end Nautical Tourism, generating significant revenue. Nautical Tourism and Yachting markets are lucrative businesses that shows consistent growth. According to the European Commission, they generate around 15 billion Euros a year and provide more than 300,000 jobs.

In this project report Dr.Doering says: “With over 1300 km shoreline available for Tourism Development, there are multiple suitable locations in Sri Lanka. The newly explored East coast and even Sri Lanka’s northern shores are ideal for this development venture. Kalpitya with the availability of a vast marine life, with lively populations of whales and dolphins and the entire West, North-West and Southern coast too are recommendable. Top Diving spots in the east as well as in the south, specially (SSS Hermes in the east sea, the only aircraft carrier shot down in a ocean – perhaps the only one of its kind in the world – which was sunk by the Japanese Air Force during WW2 battles in the east) and number of ships sunk in the sea lanes to the south) provides most interesting dives!

“In fact, when looking for at the density of marinas bordering the Adriatic Sea (Croatia’s shoreline), one will notice that Croatia has 56 marinas on a total stretch of 600 km from Split to Rijeka which means that roughly each 10 km one port of boating had been established. Comparing this proportion to the shoreline of Sri Lanka of 1.340 km, Sri Lanka will be apparently highly capable to open up to this market segment in combination with mixed developments in combination to the Marinas. Mixed developments ideally would include Condominiums for long stay and for short term visitors a Hotel on high end standards would round up the project.


Estimated Expense for Project in US$

Cost of Construction of a Marina – 5 000,000  (5-Million US Dollars)


Land for the building of apartments)

Land extent (perches) 160 Per perch value                     6,500

Total land value before other expenses                     1,040,000

Stamp duty on transferring the land                              41,600

Legal duty on transferring the land                                20,800

 Total land value after other expenses                  1,102,400           1.102,400 US $


Apartment building

Main construction cost of the salable area          31,800,600

Main construction cost of the other area             7,950,150


Design and SQ fee                                            1,590,030

Furniture and fittings                                        7,950,150

Project management fee                                      795,015

Other expenses                                                   397,508

Total construction cost                                    50,880,960

Total capital expenditure                            56,983,360                56,983,360  US $

                                                                                                        58,085,760  US $


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