The PATA Student Chapter and alumni of the tourism programs conducted a full-day workshop for media personnel on Sustainable Tourism Development on Sunday, March 19, at the University of Colombo.
The Alumni Association for Tourism Economics and Hospitality Management and students of tourism study programs and PATA Student Chapter at the Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo, in collaboration with the Journalists Diploma Holders Association of University of Colombo conducted this full-day workshop.
Many media personnel representing both print and electronic media participated in order to gather information about the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Day celebrations and its opportune theme of “Sustainable Tourism for Development.” The workshop featured many eminent personnel responsible for the implementation and monitoring of sustainable tourism policies and practices.
During the welcome address, the Project Coordinator of Tourism Study Programs, Department of Economics, UOC said that media is no longer confined to one way communication; rather it has evolved into a multi-faceted force that has become an integral part of our life, influencing almost everything we do.
Addressing the objectives of the workshop, the Coordinator of Tourism Study Programs Dr. D. A. C. Suranga Silva said: “Media paly a very influential role in our life, our society, our country, in our nation, and in the world. This influential role is becoming increasingly greater than ever before.”
Speaking on the relationship between tourism and the media, he said it must be inclusive. “Media communications technologies are imperative for frontline investments for sustainable tourism development.
“Sustainability is about Ecology, Economy and Equity. If this balance is to be maintained, there also needs to be awareness. Tourism is highly dependent on media because most travel decisions are made by people who have never seen the destination first hand for themselves. Herein lies the responsibility of the media; they as influencers must carry out their task of responsible and unbiased reporting to the betterment and sustainability of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. “
Dr. Silva, speaking rhetorically questioned: “If tourism is growing in Sri Lanka, why are our people worried about tourism receipts? How does community react to tourism? Are they euphoric or antagonistic? If sustainable tourism is about Ecology, Economy and Equity why are we so worried about our national parks and their over exploitation? Does Sri Lanka need a brand as beach tourism resort or any other? What is happening to value added/remaining income? How important are the political decisions for sustainable tourism development?”
Next, addressing the participants, Prof. Rev. W. Wimalaratana, the Head of the Department of Economics, UOC, said: “Though such elaborate terms as ‘sustainability’ was not in use in the past, the concept is not entirely new to us. Our ancestors built structures, irrigational tanks, and created communities for the use of future generations. It is their noble work that we yet display as heritage and culture in tourism. However, the question remains that if we are now leading sustainable lifestyles in our consumption and production.”
The reverend said, “We can take a fitting lesson from Buddhism for this; the middle path, a better equilibrium; not to consume more than you want.” He said: “We need media support to promote sustainability and awareness. We need to create awareness among the ordinary people. We cannot have isolated tourism in the world. People’s participation is essential.”
Presenting on “Present Marketing Strategies for Promoting Sri Lanka Tourism: Lessons from Competitors,” Dr. Rohantha Athukorala, Chairman of Sathosa (Former Chairman of SLTPB), emphasized on the need to “go back to the drawing board” to focus on the basics of marketing: Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning to be at the “Top of the Mind.”
Dr. Athukorala started by mentioning that Dr. Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard submitted a presentation a month ago where he showed that Sri Lanka is losing out in the innovation sector. “When this happens, a country’s economy is challenged. And that is why we need macroeconomic thinking.”
According to him, the drive to increase awareness propensity of developing tourism depends on two aspects: Macro problems and problems in the industry.
He said: “By linking innovation into this industry Sri Lanka has the potential to do this. We did it in the tea industry and apparel industry. In 1970s tea industry was state run. In 1978, it moved to auction. 1992 tea industry was privatized. Today we are the first ethical tea producer in the world. Same is with the apparel industry. We are now the first ethical apparel sourcing destination in the world.
“We need this thinking in tourism. Sri Lanka as a nation needs to be competitive.”
Speaking next, Ms. Bhagya Mahavithanage, Deputy Director SLTDA, reported on the statistics on Sri Lanka tourism and said that tourism is the third largest foreign exchange earner to the country, 2,050,832 arrivals had been recorded for 2016 with a revenue of US$2.9 billion. The target set for 2020 is 3.5 million and in 2040, 4.5 million arrivals to reach the pinnacle of foreign exchange earnings.
Ms. Mahavithanage also mentioned that proper mechanism of granting construction approvals for tourism projects are administered through “One Stop Operation” of SLTDA. Matters pertaining to the following are facilitated by this service:
• Environment Clearance with IEE or EIA through relevant line agencies
• Setting up Guidelines for 22 Tourism categories
• Informal sector integration programs
• SCP National Policy and National Action Plan
• National Policy on Cleaner Production
In addition, tourism zoning plans aligned towards the master plans are also underway. She said that a plan was being prepared together with IUCN to identify and demarcate the environmentally-sensitive and developable areas in islands with touristic value around Jaffna.
The next segment was a panel discussion on “Community-Based Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka.” The discussion drew the attention of the media to the role of community-based organizations in informal tourism operations.
The final item on the agenda was a panel discussion on: “A way forward for Responsible Media Contribution for Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka.”