Sri Lanka is a small island blessed with spectacular landscapes and beaches, wildlife sanctuaries and natural resources, and a rich cultural heritage. We Sri Lankans are privileged to live here.

We are also delighted to welcome visitors from around the world and invite them to share our good fortune, if only for a week or two, which we hope makes lifetime memories to share and look back on.

But there’s a catch, which we have to take seriously: how do we extend an open-arms welcome to growing numbers of tourists without spoiling the very experiences they come here to enjoy?

For us, sustainable and eco-tourism are now very much more than just marketing exercises. They are becoming essential cornerstones of Sri Lanka’s whole approach to boosting visitor numbers, all of which greatly benefit our economy.

But that comes at a cost to the very landscapes, beaches, wildlife sanctuaries and natural resources that bring people come here to experience.

The expression ‘killing the golden goose’ has been much bandied about in our media of late, particularly regarding the somewhat laissez-faire approach to tourism development in our most popular destinations.

The keyword here is ‘unspoiled’, as in unpsoiled landscapes, unspoiled beaches and unspoiled wildlife sanctuaries. It is what made our most popular destinations popular in the first place, and which are now under threat of over-exploitation.

Thus the marketing mantra lately adopted by Sri Lanka Tourism (SLT)—‘Visit, Enjoy, Protect’—is welcome at every level, and is the focus of a story in the Sunday Times.

It reports on a recent gathering of experts and other in the hospitality industries, and a discussion entitled ‘Making Tourism Viable, Sustainable and Inclusive’.

Speakers and panelists included Tourism Minister John Amaratunga, Canadian High Commissioner Shelley Whiting, SLT Chairman Paddy Withana, CEPA Chairperson Murtaza Esufally, Krishan Balendra (President, Leisure Industry Group – JKH), Malraj Kiriella (Director General, SLT Development Authority), Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne (General Secretary, Sarvodaya), Dr. Suranga Silva (Senior tourism lecturer, Dept. of Economics, University of Colombo) and Dr. Udan Fernando (Executive Director, CEPA).

High Commissioner Whiting spoke about the beauty and culture of the country, including a ‘clamping’ holiday she enjoyed (glamping is ‘glamorous camping’, more luxurious than traditional camping).

The Sunday Times reports Minister Amaratunga as saying that tourism needs to be both sustainable and inclusive, and is heading to become the country’s largest foreign exchange earner.

It says: “He also cautioned against haphazard development and stressed the need to ensure that the environment was also not hampered by the growing influx of tourists. ‘This has happened in South East Asia and we need to be conscious of this if we are going after numbers’.”

Read the full report here.


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