Tourism Ministry targets 4 m tourists by 2020

  • Tourism arrivals expected to reach a record 2 m this year
  • Ministry working towards doubling this by 2020
  • Room inventory to increase to 45,000 by 2018 from 33,426 at present
  • Aggressive skills development program for hospitality personnel
  • Hoteliers urged to take advantage of budget concessions and global goodwill



Minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga and Deputy Minister of Tourism Arundika Fernando being welcomed on arrival at the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka 50th anniversary dinner by President of the Association Hiran Cooray and Vice President M. Shanthikumar

Tourism arrivals are expected to reach a record two million visitors this year and this figure is expected to double by 2020, revealed Minister of Tourism DevelopmentJohn Amaratunga at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka. The Minister was the Chief Guest at the black tie dinner hosted by the President of the Hotels Association of Sri LankaHiran Cooray at the TajSamudra in Colombo earlier this week.

Speaking at the event, Minister Amaratunga called on the association to work with him to make tourism the number one foreign exchange earner for the country. “As we stand at the threshold of a new era, where the country’s economy is looking to the trade to be the number one foreign exchange earner, the industry led by your association, must do all it can to make this a reality as fast as possible. Youmust focus on the issues that are hampering the growth of the industry. The industry must gear itself and be ready for a tourism boom in the next few years. Tourism is a national enterprise and we are all stakeholders.”

One of the biggest issues facing the hospitality industry today is the shortage of skilled staff. Minister Amaratunga said the industry must take note of this and act immediately. “Dozens of new properties are coming up across the island and based on work-in-progress, over 10,000 new rooms will be added to the inventory in the next couple of years. We will be failing in our duty if we don’t match these properties with the right people to man them. Today, our target is to attract the discerning, high spending tourist. We need highly skilled personnel to deliver what we promise. Unfortunately there is a severe shortage of such personnel,” the Minister said.

“I call upon your association to take the initiative to develop the required human resources and skills which the industry is badly in need of. I believe the problem is more acute with regard to the lower-end skilled labour where there is a very high turnover,” Minster Amaratunga noted. It was revealed that the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management has launched an aggressive islandwide campaign to recruit school leavers to the hospitality trade. “We started the recruitment drive in Anuradhapura recently and will be taking it to Hambantota on 5and 6December where 100 youth are expected to be enrolled to the satellite school there. We are doing our part and I would like to see the industry getting involved as well. There is no point in complaining about the shortage of skilled personnel if no one wants to do anything about it,” Minister Amaratunga said.

“Upto October 2015, arrivals stood at 1.4 million visitors. It is an all-time high. The formal and informal sector room strength currently stands at 33,426 and this will increase to 45,000 rooms by 2018. We hope to attract four million tourists by 2020.” The Minister also called upon the hospitality industry to seize the opportunity presented by the positive press received from the global media. “The global media is gushing about destination Sri Lanka. After years of bad press, we are finally enjoying our share of positive news. This is good for the industry. Youmust capitalise on the world’s new found love affair with destination Sri Lanka. The goodwill that we have now is unprecedented.” Meanwhile, Amaratunga was the Chief Guest at the 17th Annual Chairman’s Black Tie Dinner of the Institute of Hospitality, Sri Lanka Chapter recently. Speaking during the event he called on the hospitality industry to take advantage of the many benefits and concessions given to the industry in the 2016 Budget.
Pix by Upul Abayasekara

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