Restart 21
Sri Lanka: Sustainability as an advantage and driver for tourism!

Sustainable Tourism Initiative Sri Lanka
Sustainable Tourism Initiative Sri Lanka © AHK Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka welcomed 2019 more than two Million tourists who visited the island, often called the ‚Pearl in the Indian Ocean‘ providing work and income for 473.000 persons. The income from tourism contributes upto 6 % to the Grand National Product (GDP) of the country.  
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic all airports were closed for incoming traffic, no tourist could arrive anymore. Tourism collapsed. Hotels, employees in tourism, travel agencies, small entrepreneurs providing services were out of operations, were without a job, without income. Everyone hoped for a quick revival of tourism, but 2020 saw no change, in 2021 it looked promising, but the third and fourth wave of the pandemic did not allow many tourists into the country. The situation has not changed, now in August 2021, much.

Based on the Foundation’s campagne #Restart 21 the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom jointly with the Delegation of the German Chamber of Industry and Trade in Sri Lanka developed an Initiative “Sustainable Tourism Sri Lanka”.
The concept for this initiative was submitted by the service provider Löning-Human Rights and Responsible Business and in detail discussed with representatives of entreprises that formed the pilot group of the initiative.  

On Monday, 16th August 2021, the initiative was presented in a kick-off event that took place online. More than 180 high-ranking decision-makers of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka together with their German partners had joined the event. After the welcome and the presentation of the initiative a commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was signed by Hiran Cooray, President of the Sri Lanka Tourism Advisory Committee; the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Association of Incoming Tour Operators (SLAITO); Chairman of the Hotels Association Sri Lanka (THASL); Chairman of the National Tourist Drivers Association (NTDA) and the acting President of the Sri Lanka Institute of National Tourist Guide Lecturers (SLINTGL). The representatives of the sustainable tourism pilot project signed the commitment as well.

The initiative - open to all stakeholders of the Sri Lankan tourism industry - is based on three major approaches:

1. Transfer of know-how: Gap assessments, trainings, process optimization and support for certification.  
2. Public awareness through virtual activities with specialized media in Germany, corporate decision- makers, tourism associations, political representatives in Germany and Sri Lanka.

3. Set-up of a digital platform to promote sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka.

Signing members commit themselves to promote a sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka, that aims to retain the economic and social advantages of tourism development while reduce and mitigate any undesirable impacts on the natural, historic, cultural, or social environment.

Furthermore, members commit to respect and contribute to the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to use the SDGs as a framework to structure their sustainability strategies, management system and operations.

Sustainable Tourism Initiative Sri Lanka
Sustainable Tourism Initiative Sri Lanka © FNF Sri Lanka

Members commit to work on the following main action areas contributing to the SDGs:

  • Fair Working Conditions 
  • Respect for Communities & Cultural Heritage
  • Health & Safety
  • Efficient Use of Resources & Infrastructure Adaptation
  • Ecosystem Conservation and Stewardship
  • Good Governance

Already during the kick-off were a lot of praise for and support to the initiative. Even the Secretary as well as the Minister of Tourism requested a meeting to discuss further steps and ways of cooperation.