Key Challenges of Sri Lanka Tourism in Going with Global Goals

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

An Overview of Global Tourism Contribution
Travel & Tourism is a multidimensional and interconnected industry. It creates manifold opportunities for employment and income generation. The industry is one of the fastest growing single industries in the world economy. It has evidenced with 3.9% growth rate in 2018. This growth rate was higher rate than the average growth rate of global economy (3.2% of GDP in 2018). The growth rate of global tourism has outpaced growth in the wider global economy for the eighth consecutive year (https://www.wttc.org/economic-impact/, 2019).
This industry is currently representing the 2nd highest GDP contributor of the World Economy (WTTC, 2018). It accounts more than 10.5% of the total World’s GDP. It could contribute over $8.8 trillion in 2018 (out of US$ 84.84 trillion in 2018). Similarly, the industry could generate nearly 319 million jobs of the global labour force, representing it around 10% of total global employment. This is one in five of all new jobs generated in the world over the last five years.
An Overview of Contribution of Sri Lanka Tourism:
Sri Lanka Tourism has taken the leadership among the other industries of the country after the restoring the peace of the nation in 2009. Sri Lanka has been recognized as the number 1 spot for the holiday makers in the world (New York Times, 10th January 2010) and the best country in the world to visit in 2013 and also in 2019 by Lonely Planet.
In line with the global trends, international tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka could exceed more than 2.23 million in 2018. It has become the 3rd highest foreign exchange earner of the country in 2018. It could generate nearly US$ 4 billion foreign exchange earnings and its direct contribution to the GDP was 4.5%. Nearly 460,000 of employment opportunities were generated by the industry in 2018.
Figure 1: Tourism Performance Highlights in Sri Lanka – 2017

Source: SLTDA, 2018
The Easter Sunday Terror Attacks and Sri Lanka Tourism

Deadly terror attacks in Sri Lanka on 21st (Easter Sunday) April 2019 gravely destroyed not only the expected achievements of all untiring endevours in tourism development but also wrecked the nation’s strong confidence and sentiment on tourism industry. However, some positive improvements are cropping up with the industry’s recovering back from the worst situation at present, though it has not made a desirable level of the improvement expected by the industry operators after the terror attacks.
Global Goals and Tourism Development
The term Sustainable Development first came to prominence in the world through the Brundtland Report, also called as Our Common Future, released in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED). It introduced the concept of sustainable development and described how it could be achieved through preventing environmental degradation while ensuring social equity, economic growth.
Sustainable development is a method of employing the limited resources (available for humans) aiming to meet human needs while preserving the environment so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for future generations.
Focusing more action driven objectives, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or 17 Global Goals were set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. These broad goals are interrelated and each goal has its own targets to be achieved. Therefore, these 17 SDGs are included with 169 total number of targets. Finally, as outcomes, implementation of these SDGs are expected to ensure for “Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
Figure 2: Seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals

These 17 goals are connected with 5Ps (People, prosperity, Peace, partnership and Planet)
Figure 3: Seventeen (17) SDGs and 5Ps

According to the UNWTO Classification, Three (3) Goals out of these seventeen are directly connected with Sustainable Tourism Development. They are Goal 8, Goal 12 and Goal 14. In addition, other SDGs can be helpful to develop the sustainable tourism in different ways.
Achieving these goals requires a clear implementation framework with adequate funding and investment in technology, infrastructure and human resources.

Goal 8:
Encourages for “sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”.
By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.”

 

Goal 12:
Promote “Ensuring Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns”.
Develop and implement tools to monitor sustainable development impacts for sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products.

 

Goal 14:
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Increase the economic benefits of SIDS and LCDs from the sustainable use of marine resources, including through sustainable management of fisheries, aquaculture and tourism.”
National SDG Strategies for Tourism Development in Sri Lanka
With an increasing contribution of Sri Lanka Tourism and considering its great potential and future prospect in tourism development, Sri Lanka has taken key policy measures and national strategies to integrate Sri Lanka Tourism with Sustainable Development Goals.
Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan (2017-2020) and Global Goals:
 Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan (2017-2020) has clearly indicated Sri Lanka Tourism as “A Story of Untapped Potential”. It further reveals that “the country is missing opportunities to increase investment and jobs and to use tourism revenues to conserve the environment and sustainably support communities in all parts of the island” (TSP, pp 03, 2017)
 Furthermore, the TSP discusses the major policies and planned strategies for unleashing Sri Lanka’s Potential: A Journey of Transformation through several major steps and actions necessary to move toward Sri Lanka Economic Development Vision 2025: A Country Enriched.
 In this Vision-2025, Roots Philosophy of Sri Lanka Tourism has been aligned with the SDGs and specific core strategies and actions have been developed. Chapter Four of this TSP discusses on developing sustainable destinations, particularly the Transformative Tourism Projects. Chapter Five of the TSP explain the lifting industry standards under the sustainable indicators. Community aspect of Sustainable Tourism has been emphasized on Chapter Six of this TSP. Seven guiding principles for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry have also been identified.

Figure 4: Tourism Strategic Plan (TSP) with Core Principles and Core Strategies

Source: SLTDA, 2018

Key Strategies to Face Key Challenges of Sri Lanka Tourism in Going with Global Goals
Though the implementation of SDG Goals in each country is greatly emphasized, the gravity of the challenges that should be faced in implementing should not be underestimated.
 Providing of proper awareness with right information on SDGs, more specifically with industry practitioners will create right action collectively on this purpose
• Implementation of the SDGs through an integrated approach with the participation of all possible stakeholders are decisive
• Strengthen the suitable authorities and intuitions , governance and apolitical system is needed for successful implementation of SDGs
• Effective communication and coordination with all responsible key stakeholders and with a wider audience
• Create competitive market forces, award and certification for motivation the implementation of SDGs
• Financing and providing of other means of implementation and necessary institutional arrangements
• Increase tourism competitiveness for sustainability

Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) and National Sustainable Tourism council (NSTC)
GSTC has developed the necessary Criteria and Suggested Indicators for Hotels and Tour Operators. This criteria were created in an effort to come to a common understanding of sustainable tourism. The Hotel Criteria are usually organized around Four Main Themes:
i). Effective sustainability planning,
ii). Maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community,
iii). Enhancing cultural heritage,
iv). Reducing negative impacts to the environment.

Introducing the NSTC for Sri Lanka Tourism by the SLTDA since 2019 must be greatly helpful to encourage sustainable practices among the hotels and tour operators in Sri Lanka. Some of the uses of the criteria include the following:
•Serve as the basis for certification for sustainability
•Serve as basic guidelines for businesses of all sizes to become more sustainable, and help businesses choose sustainable tourism programmes that fulfill these global criteria
•Provide greater market access in the growing market for sustainable products, serving as guidance both for travellers and for travel agencies in choosing suppliers and sustainable tourism programmes
•Help consumers identify sound sustainable tourism programmes and businesses
•Serve as a common denominator for information media to recognize sustainable tourism providers
•Help certification and other voluntary programmes ensure that their standards meet a broadly-accepted baseline
•Offer governmental, non-governmental, and private sector programmes a starting point for developing sustainable tourism requirements

Promotion of National Sustainable Tourism Certificates (NSTC) in Sri Lanka Tourism since 2019 should be considered as Pro-Active Measures to attract international tourists to Sri Lanka. The demand of modern tourists are seeking more heterogonous, nature and culture based tourist attractions and services. Therefore, promotion of green, culture, ecotourism etc. would create Sri Lanka as a more attractive destination in global tourism.

“Richer Seeks Greener Products and Wealthier Seeks Healthier Products”