Are foreign tourists being overcharged to see our world heritage sites and wildlife reserves?
More and more foreign tourists are coming to Sri Lanka to see and do things they can’t see and do at home—and we can all agree that there are a lot of wonderful things to see and do here.
But are foreigners being overcharged for the privilege—‘ripped off’ and discriminated against, as many are claiming across social media and travel websites such as TripAdvisor?
The big issue is ticket pricing for Sri Lanka’s renowned cultural and heritage attractions, including our eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, and our wildlife parks and sanctuaries.
RoarLIFE reports that “entrance to these vary from between US$15–30 for a tourist, while locals are typically charged Rs60. Tourists from SAARC countries are also given a rather large discount.
“The Central Cultural Fund (CCF), which manages the Cultural Triangle—Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, and Kandy—says pricing is comparable to tourist attractions in other countries.
“Working Director Karunaratne Herath says: ‘Compared to other countries in the world, this is not a big amount. Look at other ancient monuments in the world, they charge just as much—if not more.’”
But his most compelling argument is that most of the ticket income is used to maintain the sites and repair the wear and tear caused by the increasing number of tourists.
As he points out, twenty-five percent of ticket income is shared with the Archeological Department, and the rest is used to maintain existing sites as well as identify other sites of national importance for preservation.
This includes a national project last year to identify 1,000 Buddhist temples in rural areas, and to develop tourist infrastructure and facilities around them.
Tourism has seen a rapid increase in Sri Lanka in recent years. The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) recorded 2.1 million arrivals in 2016, up 14.0 percent from the previous year’s 1,798,380.
Says Roar: “While the upward trend can be seen as an indicator that tourists are satisfied with their experience, there is some evidence, especially on user-generated websites like TripAdvisor, or on personal blogs, that some tourists are disenchanted with the price of some of the tourist sites.
“Fair prices are essential to the development of the tourism industry and if Sri Lanka is to achieve its ambitious plans of earning 7 billion US dollars through its tourism sector by 2020, it is important that it adopts measures that ensure it is not perceived as a country that offers a third-world service at first-world prices.”
Read more here.