Tourism SME issues not yet resolved successfully - ASMET President | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Tourism SME issues not yet resolved successfully - ASMET President

2 August, 2020

Relief packages provided by the Government are enjoyed predominantly by the ‘big players’ in the industry while small and medium businesses continue to suffer, the newly elected President of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism, Sri Lanka (ASMET), M. B. Jayarathna said.  

According to Jayarathna, Small and Medium Enterprises account for up to 65 per cent of the tourism revenue generated by the industry.  

“However, I don’t think the Government has fully understood the part the SMEs play.

“That could be the reason why our issues have not been resolved successfully yet,” he added.  

He said while they understand the plight of the Government during a major pandemic, they believe that the Government still has the capacity to address the financial issues faced by them.  

“We need a long-term loan or a grant to survive the pandemic. The Government can look for foreign grants to help us out,” he added.  

At present, tourist arrivals are at zero per cent as the international airports remain closed.

The industry was performing relatively well before the pandemic hit. In 2018, tourism, the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country, generated USD 4.38 billion and during the following year (2019) it fell short with USD 3.61 billion due to the aftermath of the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks. The industry was gradually healing before the outbreak of Covid-19 forced the country to close borders for tourists.  

An Initial Assessment of the Impact of Covid-19 on Employees’ that was launched by the Employers’ Federation of Ceylon recently stated that in the case of the accommodation and food services sector (that includes a large percentage of SMEs) the decline of job postings in April this year was 96 per ent compared to the corresponding period last year. This illustrated ‘the serious consequences of social distancing and containment measures for the tourism and hospitality industry,’ the report said.   It added that the impact on employment in the SME sector was ‘far more severe’ and accounted for job losses ‘as high as 74 percent of the pre-lockdown workforce’ in the same sector.   August 1 was initially the date to reopen the country for tourism, but the authorities took steps to halt the event to tackle a domestic cluster.  

“We see a slight progress in tourism. We have some bookings from some countries.

“But the airport has to reopen for us to start our businesses,” Jayarathna said.