The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) at recent meeting with the Minister of Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs, John Anaratunga and the Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, to discuss the current situation in Yala, National Park, handed over a detailed Report to the two ministers that sets out how the issue of over-visitation of Yala can be optimally managed to protect interests of all stakeholders.
This report ascertains how the national park impacts various stakeholders and analyzes economic and environmental benefits that accrue to these stakeholders. Finally, it suggests an equitable balance based on established sustainable development principles and guidelines.
Curtailing the entry of vehicles to the Yala National Park to minimise the impact of tourists on the environment deprives many local stakeholders of their livelihoods, but short periods of increased visitation will do no major harm to the environment and wild life, provided wild life viewing is done in a strict, and responsible manner following the park rules. The report notes that while Yala National Park is a valuable national asset and should be nurtured for future generations, at the same time, the park supports a great many people and their livelihoods.
SLAITO is committed to exploring solutions that preserve the park while sustaining the industry. A new token system in place which involves the physical purchase of tickets from the park by queuing up in the early hours of the morning is in place. SLAITO discussed this matter at length with the ministers and the representatives of the DWC who were extremely corporative and are now in a dialogue with SLAITO to resolve this matter.
Apart from the proposals in the report, SLAITO believes in training the drivers on how to sustain the park, which is their only livelihood. It is also recommended that appropriate penalties and suspensions of drivers who do not abide by the park rules are enforced.
Going ahead, the Hon Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera, requested SLAITO representation on the Advisory Committee on Wildlife Conservation in order to advice and give suggestions to uplift Wildlife Conservation from a tourism point of view. SLAITO as a responsible body representing the formal sector of inbound tourism in Sri Lanka is very keen to partner the DWC in implementing proposals in the report.
SLAITO firmly believes in a joint consensus with all stakeholders when finding resolutions to issues and has always worked in harmony with the public sector in ensuring sustainable growth in the industry.