Sri Lanka

SL must not only boost number of tourists but elevate pricing: President

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, adding his thoughts, expressed his satisfaction in inaugurating the upscale Hilton hotel in the Yala region

August 20, 2023 12:17 pm

President Ranil Wickremesinghe
President Ranil Wickremesinghe

Colombo: Sri Lanka must not only boost the number of tourists but also consider elevating the pricing in order to invigorate the tourism industry, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

President Wickremesinghe highlighted that the tourism industry stands as the paramount sector capable of swiftly advancing the country’s economic objectives. The government, under his leadership, has implemented numerous pivotal measures to foster its growth, the President’s Media Division (PMD)said.

The President emphasized the significance of substantial contributions from both the public and private sectors. He stressed that the government is diligently working to provide necessary amenities for all stakeholders involved.

Addressing the audience at the inauguration of the Hilton Yala Resort, a luxurious establishment within the Hilton Hotel Group, President Ranil Wickremesinghe underscored the urgent need for comprehensive development in the region. The Yala National Park, frequented by local and international tourists daily, was singled out as a key area for such development.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe, adding his thoughts, expressed his satisfaction in inaugurating the upscale Hilton hotel in the Yala region. He noted that this move would attract energetic tourists and invigorate the tourism sector. He extended gratitude to Melwa and the Hilton Group for their contributions.

Recalling the historical significance of the area, President Ranil Wickremesinghe alluded to the ancient shrines of Situlpawwa and Akasha Chaitya that once graced the Yala region. He praised the past fertility and collaboration that defined the area, as well as its remarkable architectural marvels.

The President emphasized a resolute commitment to advancing the tourism industry, urging collective participation towards this goal. He envisioned the development of the Yala area as a unified tourist destination, incorporating nearby regions like Udawalawe. This interconnected approach, he suggested, would drive progress and further enhance the tourism experience in the region.

“Furthermore, there is a pressing need to enhance the facilities catering to tourists visiting these regions. I kindly urge both the Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation and the Minister of Tourism, along with their respective ministry officials, to collaborate on devising a comprehensive development plan for the Yala area. This expansion should extend to encompass locales like Galoya, Maduruoya, Somavatiya, Minneriya, and Wasgamuwa.

“The industry has to be involved, and that is a prerequisite. I have been also looking at this hotel and the area, and I thought we should also promote Yala. We will introduce a greater Yala.

Why are you going to call these places Udawalawe, Kumana and all? These are all connected, and the elephant path passage from Udawalawe will take you up to Kumana. So, let’s brand this as Greater Yala and make it Greater Yala for all promotional activities.

So, why only have luxury hotels here? You can have some near, I am sure, just outside Kumana before Arugam Bay, we can find some land for another set. Somewhere in Udawalawe, somewhere in Lunugamwehera, where those who want to can also access the Kataragama shrines.

“So, these are places. Why don’t we develop them? I am asking the Minister, together with the Minister of Wildlife and Conservation, as well as the officials of those two ministries, to come up with the Greater Yala concept. I don’t think we should stop there. If you take Galloya, Maduroya, Somavathiya, Minneriya, and Wasgamuwa, you will have a unique brand. So, just have two brands and Wilpattu, which can stand on its own. And certainly, why don’t you get into a yacht in Colombo, come to Puttlam Bay, spend a day or two at Wilpattu and get back? So, you will have some wildlife reserves, which will be different from what you can get in other places.

“Additionally, an intriguing prospect lies in establishing wildlife reserves that offer visitors a fresh and unique experience, reminiscent of the offerings in countries like India and Nepal. This avenue warrants significant attention as we formulate a new strategy to elevate the tourism industry.

“It is essential that we set ambitious targets for the tourism sector, with the goal of doubling the influx of tourists to our country. Correspondingly, the revenue generated from tourism should witness a four to five-fold increase.

“Reflecting on my visit to the Maldives in 1981, I recall that their tourist income amounted to $25. Interestingly, at that time, fewer tourists visited the Maldives compared to our nation. Today, the number of tourists arriving here, approximately 2.5 million, equals the visitors to the Maldives.

Presently, we charge around $200 per tourist, while the Maldives charges approximately $700. Therefore, to invigorate the tourism industry, we must not only boost the number of tourists but also consider elevating the pricing.

“Upon assuming the presidency, my responsibility extended beyond liberating the country from debt burdens. I was tasked with devising innovative avenues to generate income. Unlike industries and agriculture, which require time to yield returns, the tourism sector presents an avenue for swift contributions.

“Hence, our primary objective revolves around promoting tourism to generate income and fulfil the needs of our people. As the year concludes, our hotels will brim with tourists—a trend that’s already underway. Looking ahead to the following year, we must not only fill our rooms with tourists but also double the resultant income.

Tourist accommodations across the nation are experiencing high occupancy rates in September, buoyed by the historic Dalada Perehara and the Asian Cup cricket tournament in Kandy. The upcoming Christmas season is anticipated to draw several internationally renowned artists and musicians, including the distinguished Western musician Andrey Mucher, slated to grace our shores in January,” the President elaborated.

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