ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 13
Financial Times  

Industry horrified over Cabraal’s comments on tourism

"Flippant gibberish uttered in unguarded moments of arrogance"

Tourism industry stakeholders in the Beruwela/Bentota area this week complained to President Mahinda Rajapaksa over remarks made by a senior central bank official who said even if tourist arrivals dropped, it was insignificant to the Sri Lankan economy. "We, the undersigned, being Stakeholders in the Tourism sector essentially hailing from the Beruwela/Bentota area in the West Coast of Sri Lanka were shocked, to say the least, when we saw in the newspapers a headline article titled "Tourism Insignificant" the author of which is a very highly placed official in the Central Bank of Ceylon.

Whilst we appreciate that statistics may be used to justify opinions, it is sad that an official of the central Bank who is responsible for advising and guiding the government on policy matters relating to the economic development of a country should make such a drastic statement such as this while being totally aware that in real terms this would amount to misguiding the government," the letter to the president signed by 416 stakeholders, said.

Reporters present at a briefing where these comments were made said it came from the Central Bank governor Nivard Cabraal. The group said tourism is the fourth highest foreign exchange earner to the country with Rs. 43 billion last year. More important is the fact that there are 60,000 Sri Lankans directly employed and 180,000 indirect employment in this sector and when multiplied by a factor of 5:1 close to a million people in the country are dependent on tourism for their livelihood.

The stakeholders who signed the letter comprised investors, hoteliers, trade union leaders, fish, meats, vegetable and other provision suppliers, shopkeepers, beach operators, beach vendors, taxi drivers, musicians. They along with representatives of the Pradeshiya Sabha met at Riverina Hotel in Beruwela at a meeting presided over by Prof. M. T. A. Furkhan, Chairman of the Confifi Group of Hotels to discuss the implications of this 'unwarranted statement of the Central Bank which unfortunately has also left doubts in the minds of overseas tour operators about the seriousness of Sri Lanka's tourism industry, the letter said.

"Practically every single speaker at the meeting condemned the irresponsible statement issued by the Central Bank and regretted the negative emphasis highlighted by the Central Bank statement which gives the wrong impression to both local and foreign stakeholders and the Sri Lankan community at large about the importance of tourism in Sri Lanka's economy," it said.

The stakeholders said they were confident that knowledgeable sectors of the people of Sri Lanka whose enlightenment is sufficiently high can fortunately be trusted upon to differentiate between what is common sense in economics and that "which is flippant gibberish uttered in unguarded moments of arrogance."

It hoped the President, the Tourism Minister and senior officials of the Ministry of Tourism, the Treasury and the Tourist Board will continue to treat tourism as a thrust industry for Sri Lanka offering the highest potential within the framework of services sector opportunities.


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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.