Business

Sri Lanka’s adventure tourism potential grossly unrealised – Che Adventure Park GM

By Uwin Lugoda

As tourism is one of Sri Lanka’s biggest revenue generators, it’s only natural that we look to explore all the avenues it has to offer.

Currently, Sri Lanka mostly deals with largely generic tourism markets, with establishments of luxury hotels and low-budget hostels in popular tourist destinations. However, with the country’s diverse landscapes and increased connectivity, the possibility has arisen to create a whole new niche in tourism – adventure tourism.

This is a sentiment shared by Che Adventure Park General Manager Shehan Pilapitiya, who spoke to The Sunday Morning Business about the possibility of bringing down adventure tourists to the country.

Pilapitiya stated that Sri Lanka has a distinct advantage when it comes to adventure tourism because of its landscape, which allows people to experience different climates within a short period of time.

“As an island, Sri Lanka has a huge scope when it comes to adventure tourism, whether it incorporates land, sea, or air. Our environment is such that within such a short period of time, we can experience several climatic changes.

These conditions are ideal to host different adventure activities.”

He went on to explain that Sri Lanka, unlike other Asian countries, has a unique advantage when it comes to adventure sports; whether it is on land, in sea, or air. He stated that this can especially be seen in Kitulgala, where one can find natural white water rafting sites.

Kitulagala became a hub for rafting enthusiasts and had schools that taught several stages of rafting, ranging from the easiest, grade two rafting, to the extreme, grade five rafting. However, according to Pilapitiya, most of these schools were recently shut down due to the construction of a dam along the river.

However, with so many rivers similar to Kitulagala running through the country, Pilapitya stated that Sri Lanka still has an abundant potential for water sports.

He went on to say that the possibility for adventure tourism goes far beyond rafting, pointing out the fact that both the Down South and East are prime scuba diving locations. He also stated that Sri Lanka is home to several shipwrecks, which makes it perfect for underwater exploration.

Pilapitya pointed out that even when it comes to air activities, Sri Lanka has the facilities to support extreme sports such as sky diving, paragliding, and kite surfing, which can be seen in places like Kalpitiya.

Speaking of the past, Pilapitya stated that there were attempts to promote adventure tourism back in 2002, where together with a handful of the adventure community, he tried to implement an adventure committee. This, however, died down, and saw the adventure outfitters go their separate ways while adhering to their safety protocols.

Pilapitya explained that currently, foreigners who come for adventure sports stick with soft adventures such as going on mountain trails, bike trails, and grade two rafting, while a few engage in extreme river rafting.

He blamed the lack of promotion as a contributing factor to why adventure tourism has not reached its true potential. Having experienced how the adventure communities in countries like India and Dubai operate, Pilapitya stated that those adventure outfitters together with their respective tourist boards earmark adventure fairs worldwide and attend them.

While Sri Lanka does showcase adventure tourism in general tourism fairs around the world, Pilapitya explained that these are not the ones they should be attending in order to attract this niche tourism market.

“There are specialised adventure fairs taking place across the world. Those are the ones that should highlight adventure outfitters in Sri Lanka, who should be given support by the Government to go and promote Sri Lanka’s potential.”

He went on to state that despite these issues, Che Adventure Park has taken steps towards setting guidelines and gathering adventure outfitters to help keep the pace, so that anybody who wants to follow them can do so.

The adventure park has recently partnered up with nine different adventure outfitters, and has spread out into new activities such as sky diving, kite surfing, mountain biking, scuba diving, extreme ziplining, and rock climbing, in order to promote better adventure tourism.