Tourism in The Right Direction But…

May 14, 2023

After Harin Fernando, Minister of Tourism and Lands took over the portfolio, he appointed a new team to improve tourism. The new team’s efforts have paid off. Sri Lanka Tourism Board is confident that the estimated 1.55 million tourists will arrive in Sri Lanka, adding an income of 2.8 billion dollars to Government coffers by the end of 2023.

Sri Lanka Tourism Board and Tourism Promotions Board should take into a viral video how a lady and gentleman explained in detail which are listed below.

Valid points

The Immigration and Emigration Department needs to set up a help desk to establish to answer any queries on entry visas and passports etc., thereby cutting down tourists’ time in minimising their valuable time and money instead of wasting it in immigration offices in long queues.

Embarkation tax on tourists, including Sri Lankans living abroad, is crazy! It should be abolished.

Duty-Free outlets should have a good selection of wine, foreign liquor, and many brands of cigarettes available for tourists.

Local liquor (such as various types of arrack, all kinds of local Gin and Cyder) should be available duty-free in wine shops and supermarkets for passengers coming into the country and leaving. Shop owners and Management staff may check their passports to ensure Sri Lankans abroad, or Asians are living abroad.

All levels of service at all the airport complexes need improvement.

All airports should have an Ambulance service, including ‘Para Medics’. Ministry of Health conducts para medics courses on a two-year full-time basis, similar to Medical Laboratory Technology.

Most of the ‘tuk-tuk’ drivers are ‘undesirable’ characters, and they pose a danger in the first degree, especially in transporting tourists. They are not concerned about the passengers they carry, and the writer is still determining whether they have insurance coverage! They have a habit of creeping through every space available in traffic jams.

Beggars must be removed from the tourist areas to make tourists feel safe to travel within the country.

English-speaking and courteous Guides and specially trained Police must be deployed in various parts of the country for tourist assistance.

Ditches and drains should be clean and in a good state of repair.

Finally, private beaches are a must to keep the ‘peeping Toms’ and thieves away from tourists.

The second crucial point comes from the gentleman about the excessive charges on tourists who visit prominent places like the Lotus Tower in Colombo, the Gampola Tower in the Centre of the country or Sigiriya, Lion Rock, where tourists are charged significantly more than the locals. “This is the first country we have experienced this ”. Laments the gentleman, “We have noticed that charges are considerably higher in certain places than the locals. Some groups have commented that “charging structures go up to 25% for tourists more than the locals!

“We have no issue in paying more than the locals, but it should be up to a specific limit. We are not saying we should voluntarily go for it. It is what we have found amongst a lot of ‘chat groups”. Tourists are unhappy about this, which could be a more unpleasant experience. If this trend continues, tourists will look for other destinations. We wish to bring out this point as our ambition is to help the Sri Lankan tourist industry. We know how Sri Lanka is going through a difficult economic period.

Bus drivers, excessive speeds and scammers

A lady spoke about the local traffic. She laments how bus drivers drive at ‘astronomical’ speeds, and the pedestrians have to walk on the roads where there are no sidewalks (pavements), especially in tourist areas such as Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa. The buses travel so fast and attempt to overtake – when one bus tries to overtake, another bus arrives in the opposite direction, and the passing bus’s wind itself is sufficient to knock someone down. “We have heard of near misses often”, she grumbled on the video. It boils down to no one wanting to go on holiday and get trapped under a bus in a foreign land.

Then…a gentleman’s concerns: “The other factor is scammers”. The gentleman explains how locals get friendly with tourists with ulterior motives of pretending to guide tourists to a local market or the seabeach where fishermen sit on silts. “Tourists would like to take pictures of anglers sitting on a pole as souvenirs of Sri Lanka. Suddenly tourists would be surrounded by a crowd of locals demanding money for taking photographs”.

The gentleman said such scammers are found mainly in two cities where scammers operate in earnestness – Colombo and Kandy.

Warning to Female Tourists

The lady tourist warns single female tourists not to walk alone to a supermarket, to a cash machine or on the road on their own, as there are men who whistle at female tourists and make funny noises ‘from their mouths’. So, she advises female tourists to only walk alone in Sri Lanka if they are confident enough to tackle them. She explained how a male followed her to a supermarket to seek her attention. He had entered the supermarket, and the guy crawled behind her like her shadow, making funny noises with his mouth, but ultimately she had to tell him “to get lost.”

A female and male give substantial hints to improve Sri Lanka’s tourist industry. The female starts the video in the following manner.

“Our first negative point is, especially in tourist areas, aggressive ‘tuk, tuk’ drivers tend to harass tourists@. She noted tourists would like to walk freely and enjoy the environment, but it was irritating when confronted by ‘’aggressive ‘tuk-tuk’ drivers”. Tourists would like to walk freely and get familiarised with whatever attracts them, but when ‘tuk-tuk drivers’,  within a radius of almost every five to ten metres, approach tourists to disturb and deny them of their experience of peacefully enjoying themselves in a relaxed mood. She named the worst areas of the three extreme places as Sigiriya, Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna, respectively.

A male tourist explained that tourists who go to a place of attraction, for example, the Lotus Tower in Colombo, the Gampola tower in the Centre of the country, or Sigiriya – ‘Lion Rock’, are asked to pay significantly more than the locals. He said, “This is the first country we have visited where that was the case. Tourists are OK with slightly paying a higher amount than the locals, but it does not mean to say we should go and see attractions at will and pay extensive charges. We don’t say tourists should not visit these places, but we are trying to help Sri Lanka’s tourist industry. It is not a pleasant experience at all, and we have found that many groups and tourists are not very happy about this. Tourists are charged up to 25 times higher than the locals in certain places. It means tourists may turn around and seek other tourist destinations at the end of the day.

People struggle for existence.

According to the gentleman in the video, the saddest part was how difficult life was for the poor villagers in Sri Lanka. People are affected by the country’s present economic situation and begging for food.

The female in the video pointed out how she experienced a ‘power cut’ on 23 January. She must have been out in the town because every hotel has a generator.



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