Recognising the role of SMEs in the tourism sector | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Recognising the role of SMEs in the tourism sector

5 September, 2021
Ms. Kimarli Fernando
Ms. Kimarli Fernando

The Foreign Ministry in collaboration with Sri Lanka Tourism recently hosted a virtual business to business (B2B) interactive session with the member states of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) to enhance tourism cooperation in the region.

The CICA is a multi-national forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security, and stability in Asia.

The forum which was focused on the importance and benefits of international collective efforts and collaborative endeavours to create a sustainable tourism sector post pandemic was attended by over 100 industry experts from twenty-seven member states. 

The opening remarks were made by State Minister of Regional Cooperation Tharaka Balasooriya.  Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Ms. Kimarli Fernando made the keynote address, followed by a comprehensive presentation on Sri Lanka covering a variety of topics related to tourism and the measures currently being taken to ensure a faster post-pandemic recovery. Presentations were also made by The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO), Association for Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET), The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) while the closing remarks was made by   Director General, East Asia, Foreign Ministry, Rohana Ambagolla.

A key component in this strategy for recovery is the SME sector, which makes up nearly 80% of the domestic tourism industry. The Association for Small and Medium Enterprises in Tourism (ASMET) represented this vital sector.

Speaking on behalf of ASMET, at the virtual session, Rohan Abeywikrema elaborated on the challenges faced by the industry. 

SMEs are a vital part of the island’s tourism industry and an engine for economic growth. They are, however, also the most affected due to the prevailing situation. Sri Lanka Tourism continues to work closely with these SMEs, to ensure they survive the current slump and find the fastest possible road to recovery. The authorities have spearheaded the process of converting the SME sector from an informal to a formal sector which ensured improved standardisation, modern regulations, and pragmatic policy decisions. The latest technology has also been implemented, including complete automation of the ‘Tourism Service Provider Registration Process’, which now provides 100% online registration.  

“The work we have done towards completely revamping the local tourism sector, ensures visitors are provided with a more authentic island experience and sustainable tourism model.

The primary focus at this point is the sector’s speedy recovery and SMEs have a crucial role to play in this transition,” said Ms.   Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism, Kimarli Fernando.President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka, Sanath Ukwatte echoed similar sentiments and stressed the need for a clear pathway to recovery and noted that developing domestic tourism was vital for sustaining the sector until borders begin to open. 

At the CIMA CXO Forum 2021 which focused on ‘Navigating the tides of uncertainty’ and explored some of the key issues facing the region while discussing best practices the industry could  follow to mitigate  the challenges. The panelist at the forum discussed the need to adapt to the new normal and the measures that need to be implemented for economies to capitalise on the ‘great reset’ taking place globally.

Ms. Fernando, one of the panelists, outlined Sri Lanka Tourism’s stance to continue to focus on building an inclusive and sustainable industry with a keen focus on the SME sector.  The advancements made within the industry during the downtime will enable Sri Lanka to re-emerge as a world-class destination that caters to a more high-yielding visitor. While the many stakeholders in the industry will have a crucial role to play in this transformation, Sri Lanka Tourism remains focused on continuing to position Sri Lanka as one of the most important leisure destinations in Asia, she said.