Sri Lanka promotes community involvement in war-battered tourist industry

Aug 06, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s leisure sector should focus more on promoting people development and community involvement to make the tourism industry sustainable, officials say.

India, Macau and Thailand’s Six Senses Spa won awards in other categories of marketing, heritage and environment. Top coastal resorts, mostly empty because of the ethnic war, have begun training local trishaw taxi drivers on etiquette and providing parking so they can get business by taking visitors around. Smaller hotels pay commissions to taxi drivers for bringing guests.

The aim is to raise awareness among locals that helping tourists and providing better services brings benefits and to ensure greater support for the industry.

“If tourism is to be sustainable, we have to get the community involved. The basic idea is people must benefit from the tourism industry,” Dr Prathap Ramanujam, a former top official in the tourism ministry, says.

“Community participation and recognition is where the future lies. It is not the number of tourists but how the country and its people benefit from it. People should appreciate why the tourists should come here,”

Ramanujam, now secretary of t