State level meetings with Sri Lanka Tourism are single-handedly dominated much to the irritation of tourism officials and industry persons who say they are unable to raise any issues.
“It is very apparent that the entire tourism arena works in different groups because we cannot thrash out the problems and the truth is suppressed,” official sources told the Business Times.
This comes in the wake of last Tuesday’s 5-page statement issued by the Economic Development Ministry firmly stating the Treasury’s non-interference and only their “interface” with the key institutions at Sri Lanka Tourism. “The Ministry regrets to note the manner in which the Secretary to the Ministry has been dragged on to these issues to tarnish the image of the Ministry,” the statement read.
However, official sources confirm that the Treasury Secretary continues to take tough measures without consultation as other officials or industry heads aren’t allowed to speak during meetings.
The sources said, “The truth is suppressed” and it is believed that “the way things are moving everything will come to a standstill” since no one can make any decision.
In reference to promotional activities, the release states it has been agreed for a “collective arrangement in which the Sri Lanka Tourism, Export Development Board, Department of Commerce, Sri Lanka Tea Board, SriLankan Airlines and the Board of Investment must work together considering the cost involved and the fact that coherent promotional strategy is necessary for an effective promotional campaign.”
But industry experts believe that with Rs.35.3 million spent on participation at the World Travel Mart (WTM) in the UK and approximately Rs.32.4 million for the International Tourism Borse (ITB) in Germany trade fairs last year, it was “ridiculous” not to have high level government representation.
On the other hand, if the state believes that officials should not participate then the state should not be part of these trade fairs, analysts observed.
Commenting on the ministry’s criticism against those officials repeatedly participating at trade fairs, industry analysts said this was a necessity and that it was only those with the capacity to speak on the market and destination should represent Sri Lanka Tourism in order to receive any high level meetings with other international tour operators, travel agents or participating countries.
The ministry has pointed out that they intend sending “second tier officials who could come up in the post conflict middle income country foreign investment drive and promotions and identify different teams with communication skills to different markets.”
“The Ministry promotes training opportunities to all young working officials rather than rubber stamping nominations of selected few who repeatedly make use of such opportunities at the cost of others,” the release said.
However, official sources questioned opportunities provided in this respect for youth as insufficient training or motivation was provided to promote as representatives of Sri Lanka Tourism.
In this respect, the government has identified Sri Lankan missions overseas to be involved in promoting the destination.
In fact, the government believes tourism promotion must be looked at through active participation from the private sector as in the case of the apparel and tea sectors, the release points out.
In the meantime, the ministry points out that the Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman had not resigned due to his “inability to work with the ministry or due to a tussle between the Secretary and Chairman”.
In reference to the COPE report requesting for responses from the institutions on issues raised during a meeting, the ministry notes that the incumbent head was responsible towards responding to these concerns irrespective of whether the said matters took place during his time or not.
In this respect, the statement notes that “The Ministry wishes to assure that the letter is not pointing out at any individual officer in the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority.”