A worthy proposal | Daily News

A worthy proposal

State Minister for Tourism Diana Gamage is no stranger to controversy. Since defecting from the Samangi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) and joining the Government, she has hit out at her former colleagues at every turn and called into question the leadership of SJB and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa.

She is also known to speak her mind irrespective of consequences. Diana is a firm advocate for the export of cannabis to bring in foreign exchange. Now she is promoting the creation of a no-holds-barred nightlife in the Capital City and elsewhere to attract high spending tourists. She has cited the case of Macao which has become a tourist paradise as a result of its famous nightlife attractions.

She also noted that several localities outside the City too were tailor-made for nightlife promotion. For instance, the Mannar Islands too could be earmarked for nightlife pursuits which according to her would be a big hit with high- end tourists.

The State Minister is bound to come in for heavy flak from the Maha Sangha and other religious leaders for promoting nightlife activities in this country for whatever reason. Earlier too there were strong objections when plans were announced to set up casinos in a designated area in Colombo when Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President, by Australian ‘Casino King’ James Packer. The project eventually petered out.

At the time, though, the country was not facing a dollar problem and how things would have evolved had this been so is indeed a matter for conjecture. However, the country is now facing a deep dollar crisis with the Government even unable to import vital medicines plus essential consumer items while still grappling with the fuel crisis. Fuel ships lying in anchor at the Port are refusing to unload the cargo until payment is made in dollars.

Hence, the crying need today is raising sufficient dollars to meet the basic needs of the people, never mind from where or how it comes. The country can no longer afford to be choosy as to the source(s) of its income. Tourism developed to its true potential is one avenue which could rake in the shekels and all possibilities should be explored to make this happen. The nightlife project proposed by the State Minister could work in bringing tourist traffic to the country going by examples elsewhere.

We being an island the potential could be greater to draw in the visitors. Hotels too should be enlisted to provide support for this venture that is filled with promise. The promotion aspect will have to be handled by professionals in the business and a whole new change in the nightlife landscape can be expected if the project succeeds.

Like the Minister said, the venture reeks of megabucks. And also like she explained, Colombo after 10 p.m. is a “dead” city. Even the tourists are asleep when they should be out and about splashing away their dollars. Why the authorities had so far failed to explore the potential of a night economy targeting tourists is puzzling indeed when there have been night fairs and carnivals aplenty that certainly did not earn any money for the Government. It does not have to be a Bangkok or a Pattaya.

Nightlife activity could be permitted with certain restrictions that do not impinge on moral or cultural values. After all, Massage Parlours and Spas are found in every street corner and no objections have been raised. You certainly cannot eat a cake without cutting it. Nightlife activity no doubt brings with it a milieu that is unique. If tough restrictions are imposed it will negate the whole raison d'etre, which is accumulating dollars via tourists.

Other avenues too should be explored for attracting tourists. We have canals, tanks, rivers and waterways set in the most breathtakingly beautiful backdrops. Steps should be explored to provide boat rides to tourists at these places. Some time ago, tourists taking boat rides on the Dutch Canal originating in Puttalam and continuing up to Palliyawatte in Hendala was a familiar sight.

Special trains should be reserved for tourists for sightseeing tours and scenic spots developed as tourist attractions. The North and the East have a good potential for tourist attractions with surfing and water sports being standard fare in many hotels in the East which are also popular among the locals.

Whale watching in the seas off Trincomalee should also be popularised, so that more tourists get attracted to this popular pastime. Organised fishing expeditions are another pastime that could attract big spending tourists plus the safaris and mountain climbing treks.

Tourism today is not only about golden sands and exquisite beaches which was the watchword in tourist brochures of the past, used to identify Sri Lanka to the foreign visitor. Tourism now takes on a multitude of facets with terms like eco-tourism gaining entry into the lexicon.

Tourism authorities should strive to make use of all the available potential and natural advantages such as the country's unique climate, geographical set-up and the cultural diversity to attract more tourists and with it the all important dollars to cure a badly ailing economy.

Add new comment