Published on : Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Tourism economics expert D.A.C. Suranga Silva, a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Director of Economic Research and Industry Policy Analysis, spoke on a wide range of topics recently which involved tourism development in South Asia.
He said that terrorism and tourism cannot go together. He stressed that Sri Lanka had lost tourist inflow as a result of the civil war. However, now peace is back. The war-hit northern and eastern provinces are open to tourism. The eastern part is already developed and the northern part is on its way, and big hotels coming up in cities like Jaffna. Sri Lanka is now recognized as one of the fastest growing nations in the world in terms of tourism. Local Tamils are starting their own travel agencies, hotels and home-stays, and selling their agricultural products. Jaffna University has a course on tourism. Many foreign agencies like the World Bank are offering funds. Youth training programmes for tourism are their way.
Silva further said that South Asia is a region of untapped potential. Countries like India and Sri Lanka have huge potential but lack in infrastructure, connectivity and activity. It is important for these South Asian countries to liberalize visa regimes to facilitate free inflow of tourists.
Silva said that India and Sri Lanka are historically and culturally connected. Both countries share common stories of great epics such as Ramayana. A large number of tourists that Sri Lanka receives are from India.
Similarly, Buddhists from Sri Lanka are increasingly coming to India. Both countries need to develop a strategic approach for mutual benefit. Connectivity needs to be improved, not just improving physical connectivity, but also liberalizing visa regimes. Hospitality, Ayurveda, spiritual tourism, and wildlife tourism are areas where both countries can work together.