YouLead and Kandy Hoteliers partner to save tourism jobs

The Kandy Hoteliers Association (KHA) launched a soft skills training programme in Kandy on 10 July for tourism and hospitality industry employees. The programme was launched in collaboration with YouLead, a $ 12 million programme funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the International Executive Service Corps (IESC) to improve technical and vocational education and training, create a more skilled workforce, and link youth to more productive careers.

The members of KHA are making every effort to retain and upskill employees, bolster their confidence, and improve their career prospects following the lull in the number of international travellers experienced after the 21 April attacks. The programme is tailored specifically to improving the customer service skills of the employees.

Thirty employees from KHA member hotels will take part in the programme designed by YouLead Tourism Consultant Srilal Miththapala.

After the devastating Easter Sunday attacks, YouLead and the Sri Lanka Tourism Skills Committee (TSC) stepped in to support the struggling industry by strengthening the soft skills of hotel staff. The programme will cover topics such as communication, body language, assertiveness, teamwork, interpersonal skills, and customer service.

KHA President Samantha Ratnayake said: “We are pleased with this initiative. It comes during a time the tourist industry is experiencing an unexpected setback. It will not only address the need for upskilling staff but will reinforce the fact among hotel employees that Sri Lanka will recover, and these skills will matter.”

YouLead Project Director Charles Conconi concurred: “YouLead was focused on helping the industry identify and train up to 100,000 new recruits. We’ve temporarily adjusted our focus to saving jobs rather than creating them. We are confident that Sri Lankan tourism will soon be back on its feet, and having better skilled employees will help drive the industry to even greater heights.”

YouLead is also a leading contributor to the portal and the #lovesrilanka movement. The Sri Lanka Tourism Alliance launched the movement in the weeks after the 21 April attacks to present a unified voice for the industry and provide credible information on the security situation to potential visitors. has effectively changed the narrative from one of despair to one of hope. The portal showcases experiences from the thousands of travellers still here and still enjoying Sri Lanka’s charms. The Tourism Alliance is 100% private sector-led.

“Without the portal and its related social media feeds, potential tourists would have remained confused and the recovery process would drag out for many months and millions of dollars in additional losses,” said Resplendent Ceylon Managing Director Malik Fernando, who chairs the Alliance’s Advisory Group.

The response to #lovesrilanka has been encouraging with more than 350 members of the industry both in Sri Lanka and abroad joining in the first weeks. In addition to support from the USAID-funded YouLead project, the USAID-funded Supporting Accelerated Investment in Sri Lanka (SAIL) and the Australian-funded Market Development Facility projects also provide the Tourism Alliance with operational help and technical assistance in crisis management and crisis communications.