ARTDO conference in Colombo in September | Sunday Observer

ARTDO conference in Colombo in September

The head table at the media briefing. Pic: Sudath Malaweera
The head table at the media briefing. Pic: Sudath Malaweera

The Asian Regional Training and Development Organisation (ARTDO) will bring in over 350 local and international participants for the 46th ARTDO conference to be held in Sri Lanka which is an ideal location for MICE events, said ARTDO President Janaprith Fernando at the launch of the ARTDO Conference in Colombo last week.

“Sri Lanka was selected to host the event despite the recent incidents, because the location is known for MICE tourism. We are confident the ARTDO conference will encourage global organisations to choose Sri Lanka as a venue for conferences and other MICE events,” Fernando said.

The conference themed ‘Shaping a Sustainable Future’ will host world renowned HR and Management gurus who would share their knowledge and experiences in diverse fields. The event will also be graced by the Princess GKR Mangkubumi of Indonesia, Rita Goh, Malaysia, Koko Nakahara and Lakmini Wijesundara of Iron One Technologies, Sri Lanka and legal practitioners in a session resourced by Kalinga Indatissa PC (President BASL), T. Gunaseelan (Advocate Malaysia) and Dr. Harsha Cabraal PC.

A highlight of the conference will be a session on sustainable development goals and the role of NGOs. Formed in 1974, ARTDO is made up of national organisations, training and education institutions, HRD practitioners and multinational companies from over 30 countries. The annual conference has been held in Philippines, New Zealand, India, Fiji Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Egypt, Australia and Taiwan.

The event will be held from September 23-25 at Hilton Colombo.

Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes said the tourism industry has turned around within a short time recording a daily average of around 3,200 visitors since the beginning of this month and added that it is a remarkable achievement given the negative sentiments conveyed to the world by the media.

“We are confident that the industry will be soon at its best again with the numbers and revenue anticipated for the year,” Gomes said adding that events of this nature will help boost the confidence of travellers that Sri Lanka is no more an unsafe country to travel to. The tourism industry took a major hit due to the Easter attacks that resulted in arrivals plummeting to less than 1,000 a day. However, the number of arrivals has been picking up since last month recording around 2,200 visitors per day.

“Tourism will be the number one foreign exchange earner for the country, generating an annual revenue of about US $ 10 billion surpassing earnings from foreign remittances. The tourism industry is the largest employer providing direct and indirect jobs to around two million people which makes it all the more important that everyone realises this fact and supports to develop the lucrative industry,” the SLTB Chief said.

Stressing the need to be aggressive and competitive to grab a sizeable share of the global tourism industry which accounts for around US$ 8.5 trillion in revenue, Gomes said there is no point blaming only politicians when the citizens are not concerned about the country.

“It is a pity to see no unity within the tourism industry itself. Many don’t see eye to eye when it comes to vital decisions for the welfare of the industry and the country at large. Everyone wants to have their own way and see to their own interest. This industry supports over two million people whose livelihood is in jeopardy after the April 21 blow. From the king coconut seller in a remote location to the five start hotel in Colombo all in the industry are in a precarious situation. We need to put out heads together and work to rebuild the industry if the country is to go forward,” Gomes said.

However, the story of those who try to eke out a living from tourism, including the snake charmers, soothsayers, money trick makers, fruit and ornament sellers, trishaw, boat and safari jeep operators is heart rending.

“We have not had a single tour for the past week,” said a boat owner in Kalpitiya due to the sharp decline in visits of tourists to the location.

The irony is that while the industry is going through turbulent times the policy makers and the elected representatives are gearing up for polls with the hope of taking the masses on a political ride. “We are not going to be fooled any longer. Masses are not asses as they think. We will teach them a bitter lesson this time,” tourist entertainers said.