Australian initiated S4IG project promotes tourism in East | Daily News

Australian initiated S4IG project promotes tourism in East

In a bid to narrow the Tourism sector’s disparity gap in the Eastern Province, Australian Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), is investing over Australian Dollars 15 million for the implementation of Stage I of the S4IG project, which addresses many issues faced by the SME sector involved in tourism.

The project which commenced two years ago, had already seen around half of this amount being invested, said S4IG team leader of the project, David Ablett. He said that the balance would be disbursed before November 2020.

S4IG is a skills program used in the Tourism sector to explore and demonstrate successful models of change within skills providers and formal and informal tourism enterprises across Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa districts, through showcasing coordinated, demand driven, flexible and inclusive skills development. Australia’s S4IG program is implemented with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Skills Development and Vocational Training.

He said that after the Easter Sunday blasts, Eastern tourism too, was badly effected, specially the SME Sector. As building tourism resilience is relevant to all segments of the industry, we too held a series of workshops for small and medium players across the country, ending with sessions in Polonnaruwa and Trincomalee, which were conducted in Sinhala and Tamil.

He disclosed that the East had been earmarked by the Industry as Sri Lanka’s next emerging tourist hot spot, while we are helping the East SME sector to be ready to meet this target.

“One of the priorities of our programs, is to help smaller businesses learn how to market their products more effectively to the tourism sector, while we too have brought a team from the Academy of Design and Urban island store in Colombo and have matched them with some of the craftsmen in the area. We have presently observed that match making is successful, while the Eastern Province crafts are now being sold at the Urban Island store, giving local crafts an unexpected market.”

“We are now looking at similar match making options and now looking at the hand loom industry (Block Printing).” He said they are also looking at introducing value addition for local products as we observe that King Coconut sold in Sri Lanka fetches around Rs. 10, while as in countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines, it’s around Rs. 500. In addition, we are also looking at helping entrepreneurs to improve their Saloons and Spas, so that tourists too would patronize them.

Another area that we are focusing on is Bakery training, where hotels would be able to purchase bakery items from nearby places rather than bringing them from main cities.

“We have also observed that large hotels too attempt to ‘import’ food stuffs, specially fruits, vegetables, fish and meat from Colombo, when the produce are available just 5 to 10 Kilometres away and at a lower price as well. “We wish that Eastern Province entrepreneurs too play a bigger role in the Tourism supply chain.”

The program is also looking at developing the Batticaloa Fort as a major tourist attraction and funds are channeled for it. “We wish to create day and night ‘Walking Tours’ to the Fort and would help create craft shops, food outlets serving traditional Dutch and Portuguese food, wine, cultural entertainment involving the local entrepreneurs.

The Australian Government would invest Australian dollars 60,000 towards this Batticaloa Fort Development project.

S4IG had also hosted a mega culinary event ‘Supreme Chef,’ at the Batticaloa Stadium, which had drawn more crowds than for the International Australian Master Chef program.

He also identified a significant success of the program as training 10 blind people as tour/travel operators, now employed in the Eastern Province private sector.

Training of Three Wheel drivers too are being carried out to groom them as Tour Guides as well, by providing them with a double role. “We would also link them to hotel guests via an App, which would provide the guests with a feeling of security.”

He however said that when it comes to improvement of infrastructure such as increasing facilities at the main railway and bus stations in the area, they find it difficult to coordinate with the Central Government. “In contrast, Local government bodies as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs are supporting us.”

He said all these programs would help the tourists to stay longer in the eastern province giving more income from tourist to the region.

 


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