Financial Times

Drop in Indian tourists - Ministry

By Natasha Gunaratne

The Ministry of Tourism says there has been a slight drop in arrivals from India despite the ongoing promotions and efforts by the ministry to increase its penetration in the Indian market.

At a media briefing this past week, Secretary to the Ministry George Michael also said that in spite of the travel advisories, tourist arrivals from France have remained stable. The Ministry further announced that Cornel Perera, a veteran of the hotel industry, has assumed duties as Chairman of the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) which has colleges in five locations across the country with a total enrollment of over 1500 students for 2008. Mr. Perera outlined his vision for the Institute and the importance in raising its standards to be competitive and recognized internationally given the current global financial crisis.

He said no one quite understands the repercussions of the crisis right now but will only 'feel it in one or two months.' He added that the Institute which is over 45 years old needs to revise its current curriculum, a task that has to be fulfilled by the Board of Management of the school, and to produce well trained graduates with the 'right attitude and the right attributes.'

Mr. Perera said that despite the financial turmoil in Europe, the US and even Australia, tourism will never die although the numbers will decrease as well as the market for luxury travel. He said hospitality is 'show business' and that the most important task is to get tourists to return and to train the locals for overseas jobs.

Mr. Perera said he is planning on travelling to Singapore, Malaysia and Australia to study their systems and even get foreign lecturers from La Trobe University in Melbourne for the Institute. By 2010, he plans to elevate the Institute's diplomas to a degree level with the concurrence of the University Grants Commission.

The Ministry is also planning on giving certification for hotels, restaurants, guest houses, Ayurveda hotels and spas to adhere to minimum standards.

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