At a time when Sri Lanka is enjoying a high popularity rating—Lonely Planet named it the top destination for 2019—tourists continue to largely ignore the country's north. An increase in tourism activities in the region would greatly benefit local populations, which is why the Establishment of an Entrepreneur Financial Centre in Sri Lanka (EFECS) project team and the SANASA network joined forces to support the development of the tourism value chain in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka.
The EFECS project has developed 5 strategic plans for tourist routes in 5 of this region's districts. The marketing campaign showcasing local communities in the Northern Province was launched on September 23, 2020, in honour of World Tourism Day.
While Sri Lanka's tourism industry has traditionally been viewed as a sector made up of only large hotel chains and travel agencies, this initiative looks at it from a more global perspective, focusing on the contribution of micro-, small- and medium-sized hotels and restaurants.
More than 100 small businesses are directly involved in this project. Sector employees received hospitality training and an advertising agency was hired to create a promotional campaign in partnership with 25 travel agencies. Capacity-building programs for digital marketing and website development are also in the works. Due to the current pandemic, the short-term focus will be on domestic tourism until international tourism resumes.
An emergency plan to support tourism during the pandemic
Like everywhere else, the global COVID-19 pandemic has hit the tourism industry in Sri Lanka very hard. To mitigate its impact on MSMEs in the Northern Province's tourism sector, the EFECS project implemented an emergency work plan to equip local hotel and restaurant operators to welcome their national and international guests while respecting appropriate safety measures in the event of a pandemic.
In collaboration with the Northern Province Tourism Bureau and the Korea Lanka School of Hospitality and Hotel Management, the project helped train 100 employees of micro-, small- and medium-sized hotels and restaurants on COVID-19 measures and guidelines during a full-day training session.
The program was developed based on the pandemic preparedness guidelines issued by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, and trainers used the results of the training needs analysis conducted by the EFECS project in collaboration with the Korea Lanka School of Hospitality and Hotel Management in February 2020.