Having greater territory on sea than on land, all our activities should be water-based including tourism. Therefore, greater emphasis has been paid to coastal belt tourism development and the government and the private sector have make efforts to develop this sector.
Many investors have come forward to build hotels on the beach front making Sri Lanka a beach destination.
“Laugfs Leisure has invested heavily in its two beach front properties. Anantaya Resort & Spa, Chilaw was build with an investment of Rs 2.2 bn and Anantaya Resorts & Spa, Passikudah with an investment of Rs 2.6 bn. These two hotels have 87 rooms and 51 (46 rooms and five luxury villas) rooms respectively,” Laugfs Leisure Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Roshan R. Perera said. “Why we selected the beach front was that the island nation is blessed with pristine beach locations. Anantaya Resorts & Spas is well equipped and ingeniously designed be treated to great accommodation, fine dining, picturesque views and unparalleled recreation. The response from the guests for both the resorts are highly regarded in tripadvisor.com for guest experience and satisfaction,” he said.
Guest reviews have ranked Anantaya Passikudah as No. 1 in the east coast. “However, we feel that there is room for improvement. Main areas to be improved will be dedicated guest relation officer to liaise with guest in identifying the requirements and obtain valuable feedback. Enhance restaurant service will be another area that needs attention and will enable to continually maintenance quality standards,” he said.
The plus point for a beach property, especially Anantaya Resorts is sea front and beach access, an exotic destination, water-based activities, unspoiled beach stretch and tropical garden, he said.
The Jetwing Group has invested approximately Rs 30 billion on coastal belt tourism and the properties are doing well. The sea is the biggest attraction in a country which is an island, Jetwing Group Managing Director Hiran Cooray said.
Though, the country has diverse attractions, the beach front has become the key. Sri Lanka is known as a beach destination predominantly and the Group has capitalized on this, he said.
From the inception of formal tourism, tourist product development, conservation, preservation and protection have been given a high priority through land zoning and tourism legislation. National Holiday Resorts were established mainly in coastal areas following the recommendations of the first master plan and continued the same in similar subsequent planning attempts.
The planning efforts were not worked as expected and conflicts have arisen due to the lack of funding, implementation, co-operation, monitoring and evaluation, Coastal Conservation Department (CCD) Director General B.K. Prabath Chandrakeerthi said.
Tourism in Sri Lanka, from a land use perspective, involves mainly activities in the beach areas, cultural heritage sites and wildlife matters. It is evident that the usual round tour includes a stay in a beach-fronted hotel and tours to the ancient cities of Kandy, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, and Anuradapura and to the wildlife reserves of Yala, Udawalawe, and Wilpattu.
However, the popularity of the beach holiday among the predominantly Western European winter tourists is evident from the high occupancies in the beach-oriented hotels in winter. Approximately half of the average duration of stay of a tourist (7-8 days) is spent near the beach.
Around 1,000 miles of coastal area in the country are extensively utilised for tourism product development. This accounts for the large cluster developments of hotel facilities by the beach.
About 75 percent of the graded hotels in Sri Lanka and 80 percent of the hotel rooms are located in coastal areas. Most of the beach areas in Sri Lanka are densely populated and engaged in different activities such as fisheries, coconut fibre, slaked lime, etc. Therefore, tourism activity has seemingly come into conflict with industries that compete with it for the use of coastal resources.
Preservation of coastal land
The CCD has been given the specific mandate of regulating and controlling activities in the coastal zone and developing management plans for the zone. It has authority over all activities that take place within its mandated area of 300 meters from the high tide mark.
One major area, which comes within the regulatory control of CCD, is hotel development within the coastal zone and the discharge of hotel effluent into the sea. Coral mining activities, which deplete the beautiful undersea coral gardens and marine life are prohibited by law.
The beach environment is utilised for a number of other economic activities such as fisheries, coconut fibre, slaked lime, etc. and also for habitation. Therefore, tourist activity has come into conflict with an industry that competes with it for the use of coastal resources.
There are instances of traditional access to the beach by fishermen being obstructed by the siting of hotels. Even when alternative paths were provided by hotelliers, fishermen have not been entirely pleased and have resorted to disruptive activities. Cases can be cited from Ahungalla, Kosgoda and Weligama in relation to individual hotel sites.
Where cluster development has taken place this problem has not assumed serious proportions. The two industries, fishing and tourism, have interacted and coexisted with no serious problems between them, he said.
Tourism has come to be as a significant sector in the national economy of Sri Lanka. Overall contribution of tourism to the national economy is about 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
It is the sixth largest foreign exchange earner in the balance of payments in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, 2015). Since it has been accepted as a development option in the country, maximisation of economic benefits such as foreign exchange, employment, government revenue, etc., is given priority by the government. In order to achieve this, it is needed to support tourist attractions and facilities and to attract a best possible number of tourists. Therefore, product development is considered as a major tourism development strategy.
With the sea surrounding the country all our activities should be based around water. The greater territorial waters having a larger area than the land itself, the potential for water based activities are greater.
The areas that could be developed along these lines would be marinas, whale and dolphin watching, sport fishing and water sports.
Marinas have an untapped potential with the Yachting and Cruise ships. With the region promoting regattas and other activities could bring in a better quality of tourists. This also opens the doors for a higher quality products and services to be sold from here. The cruise liners could also be encouraged to berth. This will open another hereto untapped market of having activities for cruise passengers such as excursions, cultural shows and shopping.
Whales and Dolphin watching in the country has been rated the best in the world. Large tour groups could be attracted to this seasonal but exciting activity. The scuba diving in the coral reefs is also another major undeveloped area. In this regard the Maldives have a very successful business.
Surfing competitions held so far has opened the avenues to this yet another seasonal but lucrative activity. This is especially good for the development of the east coast. Here there is an opening for the equipment to market here, and well as attracting enthusiasts in the region as well as Europe.
Game fishing though still largely a private activity still has major potential for development. This just like the above requires support services. These services will increase the earning potential of both the locals and other business ventures set up for this purpose here.
Sri Lanka Tourism is targeting 2.5 million tourists arrivals by the end of this year.
Sri Lanka Tourism recorded the arrival of two-million-fifty-eight-thousand visitors to the country last year, a 14 percent growth compared to the previous year. However, the revised target was 2.2 million visitors by end of 2016. The original target set for 2016 was to attract 2.5 million visitors.
The tourism industry recorded a revenue of USD 3.5 billion last year up from USD 2.8 billion in the previous year.
Sri Lanka Tourism officials were optimistic the industry could record a higher number of visitors this year despite a challenging year.
The renovation work at the airport will have a downside effect on tourist arrivals this year since the airport has been closed during the best time for tourism in the country. The BIA which has been closed for maintenance from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. daily from January 6 is due to resume normal activity early next month.
International Travel Fair
There will be a series of events lined up for the year with International Travel Fair which will be held from May 5 to 8 in Colombo and the events to be held in the East coast such as the surfing competitions which will attract a large number of visitors to the country.
Sri Lanka Tourism officials said the promotion of the destination in new markets, developing digital marketing, allocation of funds for hotel development, expansion of tourist police units, improving jetties and water ways are some of the measures to boost tourism this year.