President Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed relevant officials to work through a planned program to achieve the expected tourism goals of 2023 by promoting the tourism industry, the President’s Media Division (PMD) says.

A meeting was convened under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe at the Presidential Secretariat on Thursday (Oct. 20) to discuss the issues affecting the tourism industry and the proposed steps to resolve these issues.

Minister of Tourism Harin Fernando pointed out that it is expected to bring 850,000 tourists to Sri Lanka by 2023. The President pointed out that the number of tourists visiting the country can be gradually increased by improving the facilities offered to them.

Those involved in the tourism industry suggested that tour operators and prominent journalists should be brought to Sri Lanka for them to experience first-hand that the country is safe for tourists to visit. They said this negative news being spread globally about Sri Lanka is the main reason that deters tourists from visiting this country.

Remittance of funds for overseas promotion activities, steps to be taken to eliminate existing negative attitudes about Sri Lanka and the impact on the tourism industry were discussed extensively during this meeting.

The tourism officials pointed out that the tourism industry has been adversely affected due to the high landing charges charged by foreign aircraft. In response, the President asked Mr Sagala Ratnayake, Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of the Presidential Staff, to look into the matter and take steps to solve it.

Meanwhile, a mobile app covering the entire trip of every tourist is scheduled to be launched by January by the Tourism Ministry, Minister Harin Fernando said.

The lawmaker added that one of the main issues that are affecting the tourism industry is the lack of tourist zones. He said after Bentota in 1980, there have not been any tourist zones and it is planned to gazette this. He pointed out that in tourist areas such as Arugam Bay, tourists find they have nothing to do after 10 pm as everything is forced to close. Hence, he noted that it is vital to establish specific tourist zones as fast as possible. He said that once the tourist zones are established, this will allow them to have a greater capacity building. He proposed establishing tourist zones in Haputale, Mirissa, Ella etc.

The focus was also placed on providing facilities for the Indian cinema to carry out their filming at Sri Lankan locations.

The President was briefed about the many programs implemented by the Tourism Ministry for the promotion of the tourism industry, including the planned bicycle parade from Point Pedro in the North to Dondra Point in the South with the participation of renowned cycling champions.

Tourism Minister Harin Fernando, Presidential Senior Adviser on National Security and President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayake, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Presidential Senior Economic Adviser Dr R.H.S. Samaratunga Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism and Lands Chulananda Perera, Sri Lanka’s Brand Ambassador Sanath Jayasuriya and heads of institutions connected to the Tourism Ministry we present on this occasion.

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