Sri Lanka Tourism has been in discussion with the European Union (EU) Office in Colombo regarding the most effective use of a Euro 3.5 million Government to Government grant offered to help recover from the current crisis.
The total grant to the Sri Lankan Government is Euro 22 million, allocated primarily to support agriculture and farmers, with Euro 3.5 million allocated to support the tourism sector.
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) announced that the EU is considering increasing the grant to EUR 4 million and are awaiting final clearance from the head office.
“A key focus is supporting the SME segment to increase overall yield and grow tourism revenue that would benefit wider segments of society. The fact that 100% of the funding is invested in Sri Lanka to support Sri Lankans and to develop long term competencies as opposed to the conventional practice of donor funding being diverted back to donor countries, is a matter of pride for Sri Lanka Tourism. Especially when the resumption of long-haul travel and consumer sentiment is very uncertain, investing within Sri Lanka is sensible,” Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of SLTDA stated.
The grant utilisation criteria communicated to Government by the EU included support to SME’s and Wellness Tourism, including Ayurveda and Hela Wedakama. The EU has had an ongoing development programme for the Wellness sector in Sri Lanka for several years.
Accordingly, Sri Lanka Tourism has agreed with the donor to include 1) one-time cash handouts to small & medium hotels 2) upskilling employees in soft skills, sanitary standards, business management 3) programs with SME/homestays to develop nature and community-based products through a small grant program 4) wellness sector – product development, branding, marketing, certification of wellness resorts focusing on Ayurveda and Hela Wedakama.
Dhammika Wijayasinghe, Director-General SLTDA stated “Product development will be led by the private sector who is already in this segment. Wellness could make a significant contribution to Sri Lanka Tourism sustainable development goals.”
With Sri Lanka’s success in battling COVID-19 due in part to indigenous medicine as well as the fact that Wellness tourism is the fastest-growing sector globally, with indigenous cures highly prized by Western travellers, focusing on this area will yield dividends.
Currently, Sri Lanka Tourism is working with the Ministry of Health to finalise regulations relating to Ayurveda and Hela Wedakama and capacity building. Thereafter a product development and promotional campaign will be launched. The EDB has in place a national strategy for wellness and Sri Lanka Tourism will coordinate with them. Sri Lanka Tourism has also set up a wellness group with the private sector for support and ideas that could be incorporated into the action plan.