and Myanmar in the
map are not members
Play ‘pandu’ with Tourist Business
was the Maldives before 1973? A nation more or less dependent on the
export of Maldive fish. But, after 1973, the Maldivian policymakers
realised the potential of their archipelago and started what could be
termed as the most successful tourism operation in South Asia.
Currently, tourism and related services constitute more than 30% of the
Maldives’s Gross Domestic Products.
before the Maldives was even being considered as a tourist destination,
Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean was well-known for its
mesmerising beaches, pleasant weather all-through-out the year, the hill
country, dynamic culture and the hospitality of its people.
the wretched separatist war that dragged on for nearly three decades,
significantly smudged Sri Lanka’s image as one of the most sought
after tourist destinations in the world. As a result, tourist advisories
from many countries transformed the earlier tourist haven to a tourist
hellhole. This directly impacted the economic health of the country and
the livelihoods of those who made a living out of tourism.
Now the war is over and an era of peace has dawned in the country.
Undoubtedly, this is the time for the tourist industry to settle its old
scores. This is the time for the Sri Lankan tourist industry to unfold
its wings and lure the world to visit the country and make them spend
their disposable incomes – a luxury that we Third World citizens
cannot afford to enjoy.
Attracting more and more tourists is indeed the need of the hour – it
is really pathetic to see how a musical chair competition has begun
among policymakers. For the second time this year, the tourism minister
has been changed without a proper explanation.
The latest competitor to join in this musical chair competition is
National Freedom Front (NFF) MP, Achala Jagoda. He has succeeded another
NFF Parliamentarian Nandana Gunatilake, who had not held the post for
more than three months. Before Gunatilake, it was Milinda Moragoda, who
was suddenly appointed as the Justice Minister.
So, the most basic question we have to ask is ‘what the hell is
happening at the Tourism Ministry?’ In the post-war Sri Lanka, it is
not at all incorrect to regard the Tourism Ministry as one of the most
important ministries, because, simply put, this is where we can earn a
When MP Nandana Gunatilake was appointed the Tourism Minister, from the
promotional tagline to the way of preparing official documents were
changed. He started inviting public contribution in determining a new
promotional tagline to replace ‘Small Miracle’ and the ‘good
morning’ official documents changed to ‘Ayubowan’!
In addition, new appointments were made and some of the officers who
have been serving former Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda were made to
Of course these are the privileges a minister enjoys. If he feels that
the things should be changed in his ministry, then they should be
changed. If he feels that the approach of the former minister to address
issues pertaining to his ministry was not sufficient, he should adopt a
new approach, employ new officers, new promotional taglines etc.
However, where the problem lies is how frequent should these changes
take place? Will it be in every three months, six months or on a yearly
basis? And the biggest question we all have is can the country afford to
act haphazardly at this moment?
Newly appointed Minister Achala Jagoda, quite similar to his
predecessor, may start an endless journey to find a tagline and
preparing a master plan for Sri Lankan tourism. When he is on the verge
of presenting it to the country, he will be replaced by another. If this
cycle goes on, what will happen to the country’s tourist industry?
“We don’t know what the hell is happening? Every time we go to the
Tourism Ministry building there is a new banner hanging on the gate,
wishing a new Tourism Minister.” This was what an hotelier had to say
when we asked him what his sentiments are about the musical chair
Everybody is of the view tourism is a ‘peace industry’ and peace is
the catalyst for the growth of the business. Ok, now we have peace, but
what are we doing? Tourism evidently is the success story of Maldives.
Maldivian policy makers had a clear vision for the industry and realised
how much it can contribute to their economy.
It is also noteworthy that along with the clear-cut policies and a
vision, Maldives had only its shiny beaches. These were the only assets
they had to offer to the tourists who visit there. But, what a whole lot
Sri Lanka can offer to a foreigner who visits her? With the dawning of
peace, the diversity Sri Lanka can offer has broaden to new heights as
the tourism potential of the newly liberated Northern and Eastern
Provinces are immense. Already there are several blue chips who have
invested in building luxury resorts in these areas.
So, to conclude, let’s not make this another missed opportunity,
because Sri Lanka has had enough of them. May the policymakers realise
the magnitude of the loss the country may incur, if they continue to
play ‘pandu’ with the tourist industry, which indeed has the
potential to transform the country’s economy for the better.
in The Bottom Line]