Feb 22, Colombo: Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and the UNDP signed an agreement to establish National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme (NSTCS) for Sri Lanka Tourism.
Under this agreement, UNDP is providing technical and financial assistance to the SLTDA to design and implement a pilot project for sustainable tourism certification.
Signed Agreement was exchanged by the SLTDA Chairman, Kishu Gomes and UNDP Policy and Design Specialist Tharuka Dissanaike in the presence of the John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Affairs, and Director General SLTDA, Upali Ratnayake.
The main reason for the Project to have started is to put the Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan (TSP) 2017-2020 into action. In the TSP, sustainability occupies an important place.
Sustainable tourism in all aspects of tourism development and a national sustainable tourism certification scheme has been identified as a crucial element, placing emphasis on the development of the country's tourism industry.
With international arrivals expected to rise globally, destinations strive to enhance their tourism competitiveness. While tourism growth brings positive outcomes for countries, there could also be negative impacts, unplanned tourism could lead to problems, according to the UNDP.
Against this background, Sri Lanka government too with its ambitious growth targets of tourists arrivals, acknowledges that the tourism industry need to continue in offering positive tourism experiences ensuring the long term sustainability. It's not a secret that some tourism hot spots are already feeling the pressure of tourism, UNDP says.
This project was designed considering the current importance given to sustainable tourism globally, and to successfully compete as a highly demanded destination. Therefore, the global context was considered in designing the project so that the certification scheme will be relevant not only to Sri Lanka but also internationally.
Sri Lanka Tourism reached the No. 1 ranking as Top Destinations to visit in 2019 by the Lonely Planet, followed by Sri Lankan cuisine ranking to No. 1 in BBC Good Food 15 food trends for 2019. Research of more than 1.3 million social media posts found the Asian city location travelers most want to take a pictures of- Colombo ranked No. 1.
"These are very valuable recognitions that any destination would aspire to achieve. What this means to Sri Lanka is, it will experience a rapid influx of tourists to the Island. This is all the more reason why Sri Lanka should treat sustainability as an urgent intervention without delay," UNDP says.
NSTCS is expected to lead Sri Lanka Tourism in the right direction.
Given the vast and complex nature of all tourism service providers, this project scope considers the accommodation sector in the first phase. Already the first batch of hotels have applied for certification and their impressive sustainable practices will be recognized through this scheme.
Minister of Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Affairs, John Amaratunga explained that sustainable development is the foundation for developing Sri Lanka as a tourism destination.
"Our strategic plan identifies the need and the importance of growing the industry in a sustainable manner. We have already embarked on a valuable journey to retain Sri Lanka as a No 1 Destination in the World." He further stated that "UNDP's technical assistance in sustainable tourism is very relevant and timely to our country."
SLTDA Chairman Kishu Gomes remarked that Sri Lanka Tourism has optimistic goals to be achieved in the next 3 to 5 years. "These deliverables can only be ensured if we grow the industry in a sustainable manner where product and service quality is maintained on par with the best of the world. Then we will have satisfied repeat tourists and they will bring more tourism to the country through word of mouth publicity."
The Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka, Jorn Sorensen stated "The Adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals presents us a huge opportunity to put Sri Lanka on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. This is why UNDP is pleased to partner with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to make the tourism industry more sustainable in the long run and ensure its benefits are more widely shared."
The project involves a partnership of SLTDA, BIOFIN and UNDP. BIOFIN is a UNDP managed global collaboration to develop and implement an evidence-based methodology that improves biodiversity outcomes using finance and economics.