THE ROLE OF TOURISM INTHE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

Sri Lanka has been a tourism destination since colonial era, due to its natural beauty and heritage.

Being an island, Sri Lanka is blessed with a wonderful coastal belt that is capable of attracting tourists to the country. Tourism industry is a rapidly growing industry in the country, mainly because of the peaceful environment. Tourism is now the fourth highest foreign exchange earner to the country and it is slowly moving to the third place.

Currently several top global hoteliers are investing in the industry, so that country can become one of the most popular destinations in the world. Policies ought to be drafted to upgrade six environments, so that tourism can play a major role in the development process.

Political environment

It is needless to say that a country should have peace and political stability, so that it can attract more and more tourists into country.

As a result of eradicating terrorism, the industry grew by 39.8 percent in 2010 over 2009. However, no more war does not mean the country is peaceful. Crimes against tourists in the country has had a bad impact on the tourism industry. Not only tourists but also foreign investors are required to develop the industry. Accordingly, peace and a secured political environment can ensure a great pleasure and security for tourists and also profits and safe business for investors. Sri Lanka exceeded its target of 1.5 million tourist arrivals last year and earned US$ 2.2 billion from tourism. Hence, political environment must be favorable for promoting tourism.

Economic environment

Tourism industry is one of the fast emerging industries in Sri Lanka, creating more and more employment opportunities in the economy.

As many foreign tourists come into this island to spend their holidays more cheaply, they are concerned about some economic factors such as inflation. Furthermore, because tourism-related FDIs play a key role in developing infrastructure facilities in the tourism industry, economic environment has to be conducive for investments. Tax holidays and concessions can encourage investors in the industry. Creating opportunities to promote shopping of internationally reputed branded products and entertainment can pave the way for tourism friendly economic environment.

Socio-cultural environment

It can be seen that local sociocultural environment always clashes with tourist behavior.

The domestic culture can be vulnerable, due to the higher tourist arrivals. However, foreigners are reluctant to restrict themselves into domestic cultural barriers. They should have freedom to enjoy, during their stay in the country.

As Sri Lankan society has been familiar with hospitality, the country has a comparative advantage in the industry. On the other hand, the country should promote eco-tourism, allowing foreigners to enjoy with the local culture. Domestic socio cultural environment should be a blessing in disguise rather than a barrier to promote Sri Lankan tourism industry.

Technological environment

This is the era of Information Technology. Therefore, it ought to be used to promote tourism in the world.

Now, information technology is being used for a variety of functions in the tourism industry, ranging from an internal organization role to external communication between different parts of the industry. There should be a technological mechanism whereby the country can enlighten foreigners directly, reducing the dependency on foreign media, foreign tour operators who may make visiting Sri Lanka more complex and costlier. Hence, Sri Lanka should not hesitate to use information technology for promoting tourism industry.

Natural environment

The most valuable asset which Sri Lanka has to promote tourism industry is its natural resources.

Sri Lanka, being an island, has sufficient natural resources to attract tourists. The usage of natural resources in tourism must be sustainable. For instance, if coastal waters become polluted by hotel waste water discharge, t ourists will go elsewhere. Policies ought to be drafted to protect the natural resources against threats, especially threats from hotel industry itself. Wild life sanctuaries and coral reefs have to be safeguarded.

Marketing environment

Tourism is a marketable service. Proper marketing network should be implemented, so that country can attract high spending tourists.

In the past two months of 2015, tourist arrivals were up 11.6 percent. Sri Lankan tourist markets have been mainly China, India and European countries. The country must focus on the Latin American region which can be considered a possible market for Sri Lankan tourism.

Having considered abovementioned six environments, policies have to be drafted to its effect. Sri Lanka now experiences a period of time when tourism can be promoted in a unique way. Tourism industry suffers from the lack of professionalism. Majority of workers engaged in tourism industry are not trained professionals. However, Sri Lanka has a comparative advantage in the industry. What needs to be done is to properly harness the prevailing peaceful situation in the country. Accordingly, it can be seen that the tourism industry can and should play a major role in the development process.

(The writer holds a BA in Economics from the University of

Source ; http://epaper.dailymirror.lk/epaper/viewer.aspx
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