Mixed Reactions To Government Appointments
By Chrishanthi Christopher
While many key personnel in the tourism sector expressed doubt and concern over the expeditiousness of the new government appointments to the tourism organisation, the hotel sector hailed the move.
The appointments will strengthen and help steer the industry forward, says Anura Lokuhetty, President, Tourist Hotels’ Association of Sri Lanka.
“If we are to meet our target of 2.5 million tourists by the end of 2016 we should make a concerted effort to sustain tourism,” he says.
Last week the Ministry of Economic Development reconstituted the tourism organization saying that it needed reforms in attitude, decision making and follow up procedures.
While Dr Nalaka Godehewa remained the chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority and resigned from the other three bodies that came under his purview Neil Rupasinghe, Bhuswara Senaka Gunaratne and Chandra Mohotti were appointed to the chairs of Sri Lanka Convention Bureau, Sri lanka Promotion Bureau and the Sri Lanka Insitute of Hotel Management and Tourism respectively. While many critics are skeptical of the first two appointments and question on the appointees’ knowledge in tourism and their ability to take the industry forward, the appointment of Chandra Mohotti is being seen as a silver lining in the dark cloud.
The hotel sector too views the move positively and says that aggressive campaigning is needed to move the industry forward.
“For this there is lots of work to be done. Sri Lanka is not a cheap destination anymore and we are targeting high end tourist and for that we need to have lots of promotions” says Lokuhetty.
Sri Lanka increased its hotel rates between 40 to 60 percent in 2009. Accordingly a room in a three star hotel will cost US $75, a four star room US $ 95 and a five star room US $125 plus taxes.
Lokuhetty says that the government views tourism as a major industry to develop the economy and that it is important that we work hard to get to our mark of one million tourist by the end of this year. “Due to recession in Europe it is extremely difficult to get tourist from the west and these days our hotels only have 30 per cent occupancy rate,” he says.
We have 15,000 formal and 8,000 informal rooms countrywide and we need to make a concerted marketing effort to fill them all to sustain tourism, he says.
“Today the embassies are handling the promotions to encourage people to visit Sri Lanka instead of having road shows which is a good thing,” he says.
Sri Lanka needs another 12,000 rooms and 450 hotels to sustain the 2.5 million tourists targeted for the next four years, says Lokuhetty. After the war Sri Lanka attracted 327,902 tourists during the first five months of 2011 an increase of 40.2 per cent increase yoy basis. Based on this it has been estimated that Sri Lanka will reach a target of 2.5 million by the end of 2016. However critics say that the world tourism growth is only 2 to 4 per cent and no country can sustain growth over 40 per cent yoy. It is argued that a 20 per cent growth is acceptable yoy if Sri lanka is able to provide supplementary services and accommodation which are of a acceptable standard.