This article is written to mark theWorld Tourism Day 2015 – under the theme “The World Tourism – One Billion Tourists, One Billion Opportunities”This year´s World Tourism Day highlights the global potential of tourism for socioeconomic development. “With more than one billion international tourists now traveling the world each year, tourism has become a powerful and transformative force that is making a genuine difference in the lives of millions of people” says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
With the tourism sector booming, tourist arrivalsto Sri Lanka are expected to increase by another1.6 folds by 2016 to reach 2.5 million arrivals.While the South Asian region recorded a 7 per cent growth in 2014, Sri Lanka recorded a growth of 20 per cent in tourist arrivals. The growth rates for India and Maldives, two important destinations in the region, were 11 and 7 per cent respectively, according to the UNWTO2015 Tourism Highlights. The tourist arrival growth rates in Sri Lanka are prospective among the regional competitors and indicates that millions of tourist arrivals can create ‘millions’ of economic opportunities for the country.
Tourism can bring in a number of economic opportunities, which can primarily or secondarily contribute towards the development of a country. The real impacts of tourism onnational output are hard to measure, given the complexity. Direct economic opportunities come in the form of tourist spending. An array of indirect opportunities is generated through purchase of goods and services from other sectors of the economy. In addition, wage income in the industry generates induced impacts on the overall economy.In order to increase the economic contribution of tourism, it is important to pay attention on indirect and induced impacts in addition to direct economic benefits.
In Sri Lanka, the revenue generated through tourism has been increasing noticeably following the revival of the tourism industry after the end of the war in 2009. However, the country’s earnings from tourism are comparatively low when compared to regional competitors.
According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the receipt per day per tourist wasUSD 160.8 in 2014. Attentionshould be paid on increasing per head earnings, rather than solely focusing on the numerical targets for arrivals. In this regard,a long term strategy should be in place in relation to the market strategy and product formulation.In addition to foreign exchange earnings, tourism generated direct and indirect employment of 129,790 and 170,100, respectively in 2014 according SLTDAstatistics. The employment in the industry accounts for 3.4 per cent of country’s labour force in 2013. Around 80.4 per cent of the direct employment is in hotels and restaurants. Other primary direct employment channels include: travel agents and tour operators (6.2 per cent), airlines (5.2 per cent), and guides (3.8 per cent). Of the total direct employment by occupation, managerial and scientific professionals account for 13.8per cent, while technical, clerical and supervisory employment form 51.2 per cent. The rest involve employment that is of a manual and operative nature.
As highlighted in a recent ILO report and pointed out by tourism experts, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is characterized bysignificant skill gaps. A majority of those who join the sector either possess relatively low quality of technical & vocational education or are trainees. It is estimated that only 10 per cent of the total employed in the industry have undergone both formal or informal technical & vocational education and trainings