Rise of tourism in East | Daily News


Rise of tourism in East

Tourism Skills Strategy and Action Plan 2020–2023 for Batticaloa District launched
Sunset seen from Unnichchai Tank in Batticaloa
Sunset seen from Unnichchai Tank in Batticaloa

The new Tourism Skills Strategy and Action Plan 2020–2023 (SSAP 2) for the Batticaloa District was launched recently at the auditorium of the Batticaloa District Secretariat under the patronage of Government Agent Kalamathy Pathmarajah.

COVID-19 has created an unprecedented health challenge. Not only the Government but also donors, NGOs, foundations and the private sector are giving priority to the delivery of health and humanitarian assistance and immediate support towards the strengthening of fragile health systems globally. The pandemic is also a profound economic challenge. Global and National trades are disrupted or halted while household businesses and transnational corporations reached a crisis resulting in revenue losses, and high unemployment and poverty rate. The tourism industry has also been severely disrupted by the pandemic. It can recover and contribute to local economic development with the commitment of all stakeholders, particularly training providers, enterprise owners and managers, the workforce and Government policymakers.

Government Agent Pathmarajah, in her keynote address, said tourism development is an important component of the current Batticaloa District Development Plan since the district has greater potential for utilizing many natural resources which attract local and foreign tourists. The tourism industry in the district showed higher growth rate until 2018 and contributed to enterprise development and employment generation. However, the Easter Sunday attacks in 2019 and the current COVID-19 pandemic have negatively impacted on the tourist arrival nationally and thereby the industry has seen declining economic conditions.

“Therefore, it is appropriate to have a district strategic action plan in line with National plans to support the recovery and revival of the industry with the support of stakeholders,” she said.

The Government Agent commended those who worked hard during the Skills for Inclusive Growth (S4IG) programme which was conducted with the financial assistance of the Australian Government and took an initiative to develop the Tourism Skills Strategy and Action Plan 2020–2023 in consultation with National and district-level stakeholders, focusing on skills training, employment generation, and destination development and encouragement for the participation of small and medium enterprises, and local communities. The inclusive nature of the Action Plan incorporates many actions on supporting the active participation of women and persons with disabilities in the industry and thereby giving equal opportunities to all.

She said, “It is my pleasure to be present at the launch of the Skills Strategic Action Plan which has been initiated and developed by the S4IG programme in collaboration with the Batticaloa District Secretariat to boost the tourism industry skills sector in the district. I appreciate the contribution of divisional secretariats, district chamber and trade associations, public and private training providers, local NGOs representing women and persons with disabilities and CBOs of the district in bringing in their inputs to the Action Plan.”

“I wish the Ministries of Skills Development and Tourism would provide their fullest cooperation for the actions outlined in this Action Plan, especially on demand-oriented skills training (business-based and centre-based), post-training support services, destination development and tourism-related enterprise development. Let us work together to boost the economy of the Batticaloa District for the betterment of its people,” she said.

S4IG Batticaloa District Manager Marina Umesh who briefed the objective of this programme, said, “Through the S4IG programme, we give priority to help manage and minimize the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on people, their economic life and wellbeing. We believe tourism provides an opportunity to generate improved incomes for local communities across Sri Lanka through the provision of quality services and experiences for visitors interested in coming to Sri Lanka. Developing and marketing quality experiences and services is a key strategy through which visitors can enjoy Sri Lanka and obtain quality experiences, services, and products. This revenue can be used to generate local jobs and distribute tourism revenues across the island.”

Small businesses dominate the tourism sector but are often overlooked in development programmes despite being the most likely to provide high-value experiences and products for visitors arriving in Batticaloa. The future of tourism, if it is to achieve Government policy objectives for improved local economic development and inclusion, requires the integration of small businesses to develop tourism value chains and economic development corridors. It is these small businesses that can employ local communities and ensure gender equity and improved social cohesion in Sri Lanka. These businesses need support to improve quality, to be adaptive and agile to be able to support the growth and potential of a vibrant visitor economy. This requires a quality and responsive skills development system and a network of training providers focused on local economic development and employment in Batticaloa.

This SSAP 2 has been developed with the support of many training providers, industry associations, district planners and tourism-related enterprises who have committed to work with district planners and the Government to improve the skills development system in Sri Lanka to deliver more and better jobs and services to trainees and employers. The plan represents the repositioning and strengthening of local training providers to support employers in the tourism sector and ensure they obtain employable skills which should result in improved employment outcomes for trainees. The process has been guided and led by Dr. Sunil Chandrasiri, Consultant Labour Market Analyst from the Colombo University and R. Sivapragasam, S4IG Consultant supported by various stakeholders from local Government, training providers and the private sector in the Batticaloa District.

This strategy includes a set of actions and priorities agreed by stakeholders which can be monitored and reported and can build the confidence of stakeholders to work together for local economic and inclusive growth outcomes. The Plan provides a quality analysis of data gathered and presents valuable insights from existing literature on skills development including key materials from the Ministries of Skills and Tourism. Importantly, the Plan provides strategies and actions that support women and persons with disabilities to gain access to diverse income-earning opportunities across the value chain. The focus on gender, persons with disabilities and the development of higher-level skills and micro- and small-scale enterprises reflects the Government policy framework that ensures access and opportunities for all citizens.

In 2018, the S4IG facilitated the development of the first-ever district level Tourism Skills Strategy Plan to generate jobs as well as to develop the tourism sector with the support of the Government, training providers and stakeholders in Batticaloa. It mainly focused on addressing severe issues emerged during the supply of skills and building institutional capacities of Government and private organizations involved in district level skills development implementation activities. The current document is an extension and revision of the plan launched in 2018 with the focus on promoting community-based tourism, E–Tourism interventions, Wellness Tourism, Capacity building of Travel Agents and Tour Operators through quality, relevant skills development.

“The S4IG programme is proud to work with the Government and industry stakeholders to improve planning for skills development and employment in the tourism sector and has developed an innovative approach to raising the profile and employment opportunities across the tourism value chain that can contribute towards local economic and inclusive growth outcomes in districts. The Tourism Skills Strategy and Action Plan 2020–2023 provides the framework for tourism enterprises to reshape the ways they have done the business and engaged in the visitor economy. Now it is the time to define a ‘new’ normal and reshape tourism services and products for higher-value visitors looking for unique and authentic experiences in Sri Lanka,” S4IG Team Leader David Ablett stated.

This programme was also attended by Additional Government Agent S. Srikanth and other key training providers and tourism-related stakeholders.

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