SLTDA, SLTPB, hotels, operators, airlines at the forefront
Strategic plans for sectoral relief packages
Negotiations with 21 countries on lifting travel embargos
By Dinitha Rathnayake A joint promotional programme is being formulated to attract more tourists to Sri Lanka from Sunday (1) onwards, which is to be implemented by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), tour operators, and airlines.A special discussion on the action plan to be implemented under this programme was held at the Tourism Ministry recently, under the patronage of Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.Attention was also drawn to the strategic plans required to implement the relief packages that can be provided to tourist hotels, airlines, and tour operators to attract more tourists to the country.Ranatunga said that the Government hopes to complete the Covid-19 vaccination drive in Sri Lanka by September, through which it is intended to vaccinate 60% of the total population.“Therefore, a systematic programme needs to be introduced to attract tourists back to the country. What is needed is a practical programme and not a theoretical one.” Therefore, the Minister requested hotels, airlines, and tourism operators to "work out the results, and not the theory".Meanwhile, a total of 21 countries have banned travel to Sri Lanka due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation and therefore, the Tourism Ministry together with the Foreign Affairs Ministry is working towards the lifting of these travel restrictions on tourists visiting Sri Lanka. In this regard, it is expected to have discussions with countries such as Kuwait, the UAE, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, the UK, Austria, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Norway, Bahrain, Nepal, Japan, France, Australia, New Zealand, Qatar, and Vietnam.In addition, the Minister has instructed the SLTPB to implement worldwide promotional programmes to attract tourists to Sri Lanka. Accordingly, it was decided to launch new promotional programmes in Russia and the Eastern European region from next month.Elsewhere, the SLTDA has also taken steps to introduce a professional development course through the online methodology to enhance the knowledge and skills of tour guides. The main objective of this is to provide accurate information about Sri Lanka to foreign tourists visiting the country, through the tour guides. This move comes in the wake of various complaints being made to authorities that certain tour guides mislead the tourists when providing information on archaeological and historical sites in Sri Lanka. Taking this situation into consideration, training courses for tour guides have been started, the Minister noted. Therefore, the training course for licensed guides of the SLTDA will be conducted with the participation of experts from various fields including those with specialised knowledge about science, culture, sustainable tourism, attractions, and natural beauty. Further details on this course can be obtained through the website of the SLTDA.At present, there are 3,943 tourist guides registered with the SLTDA. Among them, 1,580 have been registered with the SLTDA as National Tourist Guides, 1,336 as Tourist Guide Drivers, 934 as Provincial Tourist Guides, and 93 as Local Tourist Guides.The Minister further added that a programme has been launched to expeditiously register unregistered tourist guides.