Minister of Tourism, Milinda Moragoda, concluded his recent visit to Washington DC with very productive meetings involving the leadership of the World Bank, where he presented his vision for Sri Lanka tourism & possible ways the Bank could support a pioneering project involving all the stakeholders, including the rural communities & small entrepreneurs. Minister Moragoda’s request was well received by the Bank Management, which has now agreed to allocate funding to assist the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) prepare the project for further funding & technical assistance in due course, following the Bank’s Board approval.
Commenting on the initiative Minister Moragoda said "The World Bank was very receptive to supporting Sri Lanka Tourism, in our efforts in enhancing the standards and the quality of operations through capacity development for our SMEs and other tourism institutions and enterprises to ensure that we can offer a delightful experience to our discerning visitors".
The proposed assistance will leverage the expertise & resources of the private sector, wherever possible in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), as well as, community based initiatives to empower local communities & small entrepreneurs. Moreover, it is expected to address institutional & human resource capacity building needs of key government institutions connected with developing & promoting tourism for Sri Lanka. In addition, the Bank interventions may also include developing appropriate policies, compliance & regulatory mechanisms, marketing & promotion strategies for positioning Sri Lanka’s tourism offerings appropriately in key global markets.
The Minister said that the outcome of these efforts, which will build on the recent reforms undertaken by the sector, will make Sri Lanka Tourism a billion dollar industry in the next few years. It is one of the few industries, which has under gone significant restructuring in the recent past, amidst difficult socio-political circumstances.
Accompanied by the Ambassador for Sri Lanka in the USA, H.E. Bernard Goonatilleke, Minister Moragoda met with the Executive Board Director of the Bank- Mr Kumar, South Asia Regional Vice President- Mr Praful Patel, Directors-Mr John Roome & Mr Peter Harrold & Sector Manager, Finance & Private sector Development– Mr Simon Bell.
The Bank plans to launch a mission shortly to Sri Lanka to build on the on-going discussions between the Bank & SL Tourism officials, the Tourism Strategy being finalized by the Ministry of Tourism (GoSL) and the proposed areas of possible assistance identified in an initial concept note.
The Bank group, including the IFC, is expected to combine their considerable expertise & resources to assist this sector in Sri Lanka, which is believed to have great potential & has thus far demonstrated incredible resilience amidst waves of conflict which have gripped parts of the Island over the last 25 years.