Rohantha says SL can shine in UN-declared 2017 International Year of Sustainable Tourism

RohanthaDr. Rohantha Athukorala addressing the conference on strategy development at BMICH

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly approving 2017 to be the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector in Sri Lanka on the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental. Now what is required in connectivity and ground activation plan locally, said former Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Rohantha Athukorala.

Addressing the Excellence School of Management Strategy Sessions on Tourism Development at BMICH, Dr. Athukorala explained how the uniqueness of tourism in Sri Lanka is that it belongs to every citizen of the country as daily we all come in contact with a tourist and everybody must be responsible for eliciting a positive experience.

Dr. Athukorala is on the UN roster and served the UN infrastructure development agency –UNOPS for Sri Lanka and Maldives for five-year tenure, when Sri Lanka won the converted best project award globally.

‘Take only pictures, leave only footprints’ must be practiced by every one of you, he voiced to the next level tourism industry entrants from a cross section of Colombo schools. Sri Lanka is ranked number 2 destination to visit by the famous Condé Nast travel magazine for 2016 whilst Fox TV has said Sri Lanka is a top 10 country to visit before being commercialised which means we must calculate how everyone of us impacts the carbon footprint.

“Several apps and websites can help you calculate the carbon footprint and we must find ways to reduce the carbon emissions associated with any trip we do in Sri Lanka. This includes an option to buy/offsets – payments that go to carbon-reducing projects such as wind farms or reforestation programs. But emissions can’t be reduced to zero simply by charging offsets to credit cards. We must each practice responsibility to the environment with our daily actions so that we indulge in carbon-free (or guilt-free) travel,” said Dr. Athukorala.

“Latest research says destinations are not about geography, they’re about psychology; they’re about a feeling. We must get our country branding right and stay on it….and I agree to the presentations made on how to drive marketing thinking into this industry,” he connected.

“Make today’s conference meaningful by moving to action. Link with the private sector and the Government and link with the relevant UN entity to practice sustainable tourism development,” he said. “Travel and tourism is a sector which collectively contributes nearly 10% of the world’s GDP and one in 11 of all jobs on the planet. Over one billion people, cross international borders each year, a number expected to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, while at the same time, billions more travel domestically. This is a sector which will play a very significant role in making a country progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

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