Quick and Easy: Laying Down Guidelines
“There is an obvious economic rationale for attracting a higher percentage of niche tourists. We need to broaden tourism beyond the ten-day, three-city, operator-driven business,” says Thilan Wijesinghe, Chairman of the Advisory Panel on Niche Tourism Products.
In an interview with The Sunday Times FT, he identifies the Middle East, India and UK as markets in which Sri Lanka has the greatest opportunity to succeed. Research on the niche segment reveals that getting from place to place by car is the foremost cause for dissatisfaction. While the time consumed is the stated reason, the root cause is poor connectivity and the condition of roads. Driving standards – or lack thereof – have also come in for some ridicule.
To cater to this segment, therefore, the need of the hour is infrastructure.
The panel proposes that internal regional airports be upgraded “without spending big money”. While calling for domestic airlines to be encouraged, the panel recognizes the existence of security issues, due to which some aircraft have been grounded. A programme to upgrade rail services through a public-private partnership is also under serious consideration. In addition, the upgradation of selected train stations is on the anvil. The panel has met Dullas Alahaperuma, Minister of Transport in this regard. Wijesinghe believes that a policy framework needs to be created and an enabling environment put in place first. Then, when times improve, the private sector will dive in and funding will be made available. There are also steps being taken to de-bottleneck processes of approval for aspects like environmental clearances and liquor licences.The advisory panel on niche tourism products includes stalwarts like Geoffrey Dobbs, Viren Perera and Nayantara Fonseka. “We plan to educate, inform and advise the Ministry of Tourism on a public relations campaign,” discloses Wijesinghe.