Uncertain political climate dooms tourism expansion

The SAARC Region has it all. Everything Western and Eastern tourists could wish for. But the industry floundered as never before, said Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Renton de Alwis, delivering the key note address at the South Asia Economic Summit in Colombo last week.

Parallel Sessions concentrated on promoting Tourism in South Asia.

He said although tourist attractions were bountiful in the region there has not been significant influx of visitors particularly because of uncertain political climate, infrastructure deficiencies, and access limitations. He said South Asian Tourism was operational at sub-optimal levels, exceptions being The Maldives, and more recently India. All other countries need to work harder to achieve more conducive operating environments.

South Asia accounts for only 1.1% global visitor arrivals and was really no match for comparison on the global scale, he said. Nevertheless there has been some growth in tourist arrivals, but those who could not offer alternatives to tour operators to nullify bad publicity those countries have not progressed to promote visitor arrivals.

Striking a novel coinage he said strong economic growth in India, and China prompted the coined collectivized term ‘Chindia’.

This possibility was substantial he said. Not merely that both India and China recorded phenomenal economic growth, but spin off stemming from such prosperity was that both Countries having robust growing middle classes now had surplus cash to travel.

Visa – on – arrival has had significant impact. This has been recognized universally, but lingering doubts and restlessness projected in most countries where trouble spots exist in

SAARC Regional Countries has not helped the industry at all. Trouble spots in the region continue to plague the industry in the broader spectrum that dictates basics, that on holiday, visitors want to let their hair down and have a good time, enjoy a leisurely holiday and return completely rejuvenated till their next travel plans materialize.

Irrespective of some startling plusses not found anywhere else in other tourist destinations, the tourists are not coming.

The attempt at promoting regional tourism failed as there was only luke warm support and interest from individual nations and State tourism Organizations, for its sustenance.

Irrespective of this lackadaisical attitude, The SAARC Chambers of Commerce and Industry began the Nepal based initiative to promote tourism in the region. That too a special tourism committee was formed and several rounds of meetings were held. A promotional tag line ‘Magic that is South East Asia’ was coined and talk of regional tourism

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