Navin says SL must look at drawing 5-6 m tourists

  • Tells participants at inaugural National Hotel Management Conference that new Govt. places greater emphasis on tourism development, keen to make it number one foreign exchange earner




Tourism and Sports Minister Navin Dissanayake yesterday said Sri Lanka should set its sights on drawing 5-6 million tourists per year instead of its current 1.5-1.8 million annual visitors.

“Tourism at present is the fourth largest foreign exchange earner and in terms of contribution to GDP it is 6%. There is certainly greater scope to enhance it. This year if positive trends continue, Sri Lanka will attract around 1.8 million tourists but as an industry we must look at drawing 5-6 million tourists per annum,” Dissanayake said.


“Our macro and strategic thinking and efforts must focus on such a goal,” the Minister said at the inauguration of the first ever two-day National Hotel Management Conference, organised by the Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association in collaboration with the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka at the Taj Samudra Hotel.

Drawing new lessons from his recent visit to the Arabian Travel Mart (ATM) in the UAE, the Minister said that Dubai was a great example of a thriving tourism hub.  “What Dubai has achieved over the past 15 years is impressive. This was due to decisive and strategic leadership. I can assure you that the Prime Minister has placed greater emphasis on tourism and has given it strategic leadership by setting up a dedicated Minister. After the general election, with a majority Government taking office, the necessary emphasis and thrust to boost tourism will come,” Dissanayake emphasised.

He said that since the election of President Maithripala Sirisena, investor interest in tourism sector was high. “The message I get is that these investors are genuinely keen on Sri Lanka provided that there is transparency in the decision-making process and consistency in policies. The new Government is committed to these fundamentals,” the Tourism and Sports Minister added.
With regard to his Ministry’s 100-day program, Dissanayake said the focus on tourism was to establish a properly constituted and functioning Board of Directors in the four statutory organisations – Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau, Sri Lanka Conventions Bureau and the Hotel School.


“We appointed industry leaders and professionals to better represent the views of the private sector, which is the engine of growth. This process is part of good governance to ensure these institutions are run independently and professionally towards the development of the industry,” Minister Dissanayake said. It was emphasised that the Government’s role was one of regulating and facilitating whilst ensuring transparency and the onus of development and growth was on the private sector.
Dissanayake also stressed the need for the industry to work together for the mutual benefit of the tourism sector. He also called for effective measures as well as improved competitiveness and a willingness to pay to retain good talent coming out of the Hotel School.

“If we are to cater to high tourism numbers, are we able to retain talented human resources?” the Minister asked the participants at the conference, which was packed with over 150 representatives from the tourism and hotel sector. “Our tourism industry is mature since we have the depth and the talent. However, we need to improve competitiveness by adding value to destination and experiences as well as talent retention,” Dissanayake reiterated. The two-day conference, held under the theme ‘Strategic Management for Hospitality Leaders’, aims at showcasing the growing potential that lies within the travel and hospitality sector and explores approaches that allow companies to create further value for its stakeholders. An imminent panel of speakers shared key insights yesterday and will do so tomorrow as well.

Director – Elevated Training, Singapore, Nisha Abu Bakar Maricair delivered the keynote address on the topic ‘Driving your brandwagon in the brandridden hospitality industry.” Other speakers were H.N.S. Shrinivashn, former Senior Vice President – Human Resources, Taj Hotels & Resorts, Bombay, India; Dr. Rohantha Athukorala, Chairman – Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau; Deepal Sooriyaarachchi – Management Consultant and Commissioner – Sri Lanka Inventors Commission; Dileep Mudadeniya, Head of Branding – Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts; Nirmalan Nagendra, former Finance Director – Park Hyatt, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Niranjan Heendeniya, Director – Hospitality Technology Ltd. Partner Office – Oracle Micros;  Sunil Dissanayake, Consultant (Hospitality) – Macksons Holdings & Former Director/General Manager – The Kingsbury; Moiya Hazell and Wasantha Samarasinghe, General Secretary – Inter Company Employees Union.

Review sessions covering each day’s modules are moderated by Upul Gamage, Director/COO, LAHRC Management Services and Reefs Edge. The conference featured a high profile panel discussion – Managing Directors’ Forum, involving three top industry veterans, namely Hiran Cooray, Chairman – Jetwing Hotels;  Lalin Samarawickrama, Managing Director – The Kingsbury Plc & Amaya Hotels & Resorts and Ranil De Silva, Managing Director – Serendib Leisure Management Ltd.

They are expected to share their insights on the topic ‘Hotel General Manager’s Role – A Managing Director’s Perspective’ at a panel discussion, which will be moderated by Daily FT Editor Nisthar Cassim.



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