The revival of Sri Lanka’s Tourism is on the top agenda of the present government. With dwindling foreign reserves and ever existing increasing state burdens, the necessity of re-viving Sri Lanka’s tourism is vital for the economy. On one side, the state is confronted of meeting huge costs to keep the public sector alive. State employees’ salaries, cost for health care and education, public transport and numerous social subsidiaries to meet the need of the under privileged parts of society is one challenge. On the other side servicing debts from international lenders as such from the World Bank, the IMF and others are set to be another herculean task to be tackled. The Head of State’s decision to not further advocate lending from International Bodies has to be seen as the right decision, since one of the tendencies of these lenders is to include terms bedded in collateral conditions which for example are effecting social or food subsidiaries. This can be detrimentally risky to social peace and harmony in a country.
Creating investments opportunities can be one way out but cannot be realized in a short period of time. To revive tourism and to make Sri Lanka a destination for 10 Million tourists is the way out, even though it may take years to reach this target. Vietnam, which started tourism in the nearly same period like Sri Lanka did, is aiming to reach 11 annual tourist arrivals, after already enjoying over 10 Million tourist arrivals in recent times.
The infrastructural set up is a challenge, but neighboring countries already showed its possible.
China can build complete turnkey Airports in 8 months’ time and Sri Lanka’s need to cater to 10 Million annual tourist arrivals needs new airports as one of the essential infrastructure elements. Road systems are to be improved, however with the existing network of highways in the country virtually all corners of the island can be reached in an acceptable time frame.
Accommodation for 10 Million tourist of course is a huge challenge to be met. The incentives giving by the state to the private sector could primarily go to the SME Tourist Businesses to enable a fast spread of tourists’ accommodation in the 1, 2 and 3 star levels island wide. Homestays to be encouraged. Social Bonding is a vital promotional part to generate repeating clientele and home staying plays a major role since in this sector. Enabling the SME to participate in the creation of new accommodation island wide should be a vital focusing part of the State. Another sector to look at is Sports Tourism
Team Sport Tourism for Sri Lanka
The efforts of promoting Sport Tourism usually centers on individual sports such as Golfing, Wind & Kite Surfing, Diving, Marathons or Iron Man Events and Hiking among others. Events are being organized by National Sports Associations or other interest groups with the aim of listing individual sports persons to participate in these events. The numbers of participants differ from sports to sports.
Team Sports is a segment which should not be under-estimated. Germany for example has over 90.000 Sports clubs listed under the National Sports Association (DSB) with over 30 Million active members in over 40 different sports.
Addressing the lower and middle standards clubs to engage in sports programs with Sri Lankan National Teams, Club and Mercantile teams had been the subject for Asian German Sports Exchange Program for the last 30 years. With rather limited marketing efforts over 5.000 Germans visited Sri Lanka to take part in reciprocal sports exchange programs with their Sri Lankan counterparts. Since most of the German participants had been “first time Sri Lanka travelers” a significant number of repeaters were registered in the years after the sport events.
The newly appointed Sportminister Namal Rajapakse witnessed this program which could be extended not only to Germany but to many other nations. Cricket and Rugger teams, not only to top performing clubs, to be invited and to take part in this sort of sports exchange would be beneficial to the Sri Lanka Sports Scene as well as to the hospitality sector.