SLITHM facility in Jaffna to expand | Sunday Observer

SLITHM facility in Jaffna to expand

Minister Ameratunga presents a certificate to a student
Minister Ameratunga presents a certificate to a student

The Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) which opened a training facility in Jaffna in November last year, completed its third Hospitality Apprenticeship Training Program recently and presented certificates to 100 students who had successfully completed the course.

The certificate awarding ceremony took place at the University of Jaffna. The chief guest was Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs, John Amaratunga and Guest of Honour, Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran.

Chairman, SLITHM, Sunil Dissanayake, Chief Priest of the Naga Vihara, Bishop of Jaffna, Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Management of the University of Jaffna and President, Northern Province Hoteliers Association, S. Kaleiselvan.

Director General, SLITHM, Buddika Hewawasam said that the facility in Jaffna was being renovated to improve capacity and facilitate the conducting of all basic level courses.

So far 110 people have received training and 80 of them have secured employment in the peninsula.

He said that the University of Jaffna was in the process of setting up a faculty for tourism studies and there was potential for collaboration between the two entities.

Dean of the Faculty of Commerce and Management, Prof. T. Velampy said that tourism was a key pillar of the national economy and this was more pronounced in the north. He said that the proposed faculty for tourism studies was currently awaiting approval from the University Grants Commission.

Acting Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna said that he was pleased to witness the central and provincial governments working together for the development of tourism training programs.

The time was right to commence graduate and post graduate programs in tourism considering the emergence of tourism as a key driver of the economy, he said.

Acting Vice Chancellor lamented that despite millions of rupees being invested by entrepreneurs on new hotels and restaurants, there was very little private sector investment on training and skills development.

Chief Minister of the Northern Province, C.V. Wigneswaran described Minister Amaratunga as his contemporary at Law College and long-time friend. He called on the Minister to involve the provincial council in all tourism development activities carried out in the peninsula.

He appealed to the Minister to also involve the local community in the planned tourism development projects. He said many of the youth in the north had not completed a formal school education and thereby lacked the qualifications to enroll for various courses. He called on SLITHM to formulate courses for these people as well so that they could be productively engaged in the tourism industry.

The Chief Minister said that he did not wish to see big hotels or skyscrapers coming up in Jaffna but rather preferred to promote home stays and smaller establishments as they were better geared to offer an authentic experience of the region and its culture.

He added that in keeping with this concept, the provincial council would be focusing on developing eco-tourism, religious and cultural tourism, history and archaeological tourism and also nature based and indigenous tourism in the northern region..

Minister Amaratunga assured the Chief Minister that the Ministry will collaborate with the provincial administration in carrying out development activities in the region. He said the north was a gold mine from a tourism perspective and called on the diaspora community to invest in tourism development.

He pointed out that it was an obligation on the part of the diaspora community to invest and provide employment opportunities for youth in the region.

The Minister called on the youth not to miss out on the training opportunities offered by SLITHM at their doorstep as it could well be their passport to a successful hospitality career not only in Sri Lanka but anywhere in the world, as the SLITHM certificate is globally recognised. He said a permanent hotel school building was a necessity for the region and plans were being finalized to construct a new state of the art building in the premises of the Jaffna University which had been offered to SLITHM for the purpose.

The Minister expressed disappointment that the majority of the hotels, restaurants and other tourism service providers in the peninsula belonged to the informal sector and were not registered with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. He requested the President of the Northern Province Hoteliers Association, who was present at the ceremony, to facilitate the registration of hotels in the region to standardise the service provided.

Chairman, SLITHM, Sunil Dissanayake promised to introducing more ‘value adding’ initiatives for students in Jaffna as a contribution to the government’s national unity and reconciliation process, details of which he said were being finalised.

SLITHM Jaffna launched operations with a one-month apprenticeship course. So far, three batches of 100 students each, have completed the course. All students from the first and second batches have secured employment while all those in the third batch will be provided employment by member hotels of the Northern Hoteliers Association.