Business Times

Lankan tour guides lament over hard times and reduced commissions

Tourism SME mart
By Chanaka de Silva

Sri Lanka’s SME sector got an opportunity to showcase their products and services to the industry and public for the first time at the ‘Sancharaka Udawa’ organized by Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators ( SLAITO) together with Sri Lanka Tourism resulting in the first ever ‘Tourism Products Meet Mart’ in Colombo last week.

At the exhibition

The ‘Mart’ gave exposure to several new players who are providing new and innovative tourism products. The SME sector which services the greater part of the tourism industry has now come with several innovations. Services ranging from beach stays to Kayaking were on offer. Along with them several eco product manufacturers who were also present enabling the trade to locate these products and services if required at the point of setting up of eco hotels. A notable fact was that greater emphasis is now being laid on eco and adventure tourism over the more traditional beach stay and historical tours. Several new hotels in the East coast were also being showcased here. Hill climbing, Game Fishing, camping, whale watching, nature treks and traditional lifestyle tours were being promoted. Several lesser known nature reserves were also being promoted.

Sri Lanka needs quality in the tourists that arrive here and not simply the numbers. Speaking to the Business Times, an industry official attached to the Sri Lanka Insti tute of National Tourist Guide Lectures said, “We have a lot of guides and we also have a shortage of good working guides. In spite of the large number of tourists arriving and the number of the tours increasing the income of the guides has reduced.

This is mainly due to three reasons: One is the quality of the tourist who now comes here, and the second being that companies take part of the tour guide’s commissions which were traditionally shared between the driver and guide. As a result the guides do not find the income they were used to. Tour guides come from several professions. The present shortage of guides is because those guides holding licences are reluctant to go on tour as it is no longer financially attractive as it used to be. The third reason is the increase in prices overall. Shopping here in Sri Lanka does not offer the bargains they use to. As a result the tourist now shops less. Unless something is done soon we will have great difficulty in finding good working guides to conduct our tours in future.”

It was noted that a large number of SMEs are newcomers to the industry from all over the country and they were aggressively marketing their products as this was the best forum to do so.

Partners of the event were B Connected with its Managing Director Felicia Adhihetty saying they were happy and ‘proud’ to be associated with the event. The company said it provides a range of services varying from event management and coordination of conferences, seminars, conventions and corporate events to recruitment resourcing and office services such as translations, rapporteuring, and secretarial services.

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