Sanath Ukwatte, the President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka which was one of the largest beneficiaries of peace returning to the country in 2009, yesterday stressed the importance of unity among all communities for Sri Lanka to move forward.
“The Tourist Hotels Association vehemently condemns any kind of violence in the country and urges the Government to tighten laws and take stern action against the perpetrators immediately,” he said in a statement.
The following are excerpts of his statement.
Multiculturalism and understanding each other’s cultures are essential elements to our industry and we value the contributions made by all ethnic groups in the country for the success of our industry in terms of investment and dedicated service.
Exposure to cultural exchanges among hospitality workers and guests offers increased opportunities to develop a vibrant tourism industry.
After the end of the 30-year conflict in 2009, Sri Lanka has seen a phenomenal growth in tourist arrivals and the destination has been identified as one of the ‘Top 10 Must Visit’ holiday destinations in the world. The return from increasing visitor numbers saw new regional and global hotel chains entering the country, and the development of a number of small and medium-scale accommodation providers in terms of home stays.
It is much to be regretted that because of the sad incidents that took place in Kandy over the last weekend, the hotel industry has lost a large number of bookings and, above all, the incidents have done irreparable damage to the credibility of the destination.
The contribution from tourism to the economy increased from a mere $ 350 million in 2009 to $ 3.5 billion as at end 2017. This is a huge increase according to any standards and even the smallest internal disturbance in an island of our size is bound to have a negative impact on tourism and will jeopardise the growth trend.
Today we are the second largest ‘net’ foreign exchange earner, and the industry undoubtedly has the potential to become the number 1 foreign exchange earner in the next few years.
Tourism is one of the most sensitive industries globally. A slight disturbance in the country can have a very significant impact on visitor arrivals.
We have experienced this in the past and will not encourage any acts which will take us back to the dark era in our history.
We want the industry to grow further and reap its full potential, which will benefit the entire country, as it is now spread across all regions of the country.
From the standpoint of tourism, the richness and diversity of our cultural traditions - a most valued aspect of our heritage - is no less an attraction than the scenic beauty of the Island, the warmth and spontaneity of our people and the quality of social relationships. It is, therefore, the sacred duty of all of us to preserve this legacy and to protect it from any form of erosion. We, for our part, are eager, in partnership with the Government, to do all we can to achieve this objective in the interest of tourism and the national economy.
The Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka strongly believes that we need to live in harmony in a multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi religious nation, and condemns any acts which will run counter to this belief.