When will tourist numbers go up and how much will the country be worth?
That is the question posed by the chief tourism officer of the Sri Lankans tourism department, Vijay Pradhan, as he delivers his keynote speech at the third edition of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) Conference in India, organised by the Confederation of Indian Travel Associations (CITA).
The theme for the three-day event is “Tourism and Globalisation”, where Vijay said the government is investing $20 billion in the tourism sector, with the aim of creating more jobs and generating more economic activity.
“Tourist numbers are growing.
That is good.
Tourism is a pillar of our economy,” he said, adding that tourism contributes to the country’s GDP and that the country is “very competitive”.
Tourism has been a big focus for the Narendra Modi government in recent months, particularly in the past year as its growth has slowed due to the global economic crisis.
However, as of July, there were just 2.1 million foreign visitors to the tourism industry, compared to 9.3 million foreign tourists in 2014, according to the Tourism and Convention Bureau (TCB).
“Our country has a large number of foreigners in the industry.
That’s the reason why we have invested a lot of money,” he added.
“The country is a good destination for people coming from around the world.
The Indian tourism industry is one of the fastest growing in the world,” he pointed out.
“I have been a part of this industry for 30 years.
My family has been working in the business for over 60 years.
It is a very hard job.
I am proud of this country, this country has given me my life and I am grateful to my country for that,” Vijay added.
The CITA chief also said that the government has invested more than $30 billion in infrastructure and development projects in the last 10 years, of which nearly $11 billion was invested in roads and other infrastructure projects.
Tourism in Sri Lanka has witnessed a boom in the recent years.
In 2011, a record $1.6 billion was spent on the infrastructure sector in the five-year period that ended in March 2016, according the CITC.
However the government does not seem to have done enough to encourage tourists, who, in recent years, have been opting for private hotels and motels over staying in a hostel.
This has led to a rise in the number of domestic violence cases and a number of incidents involving tourists.
“We have made significant investments to address this.
Our police forces are well equipped and our government is working hard to prevent violence against tourists,” Vijai said.
“There is a high incidence of domestic and sexual violence.
People are staying at hostels and staying at hotels,” he noted.
He said the country needs to ensure that all tourists are aware of their rights and have access to a safe environment.
“Many foreigners are not aware of our laws and have no idea what to expect.
If we keep our tourism numbers up, the people will come back to Sri Lanka, but not in numbers,” Vijaya said.