The Eastern region of Sri Lanka possesses much potential for tourism due to the richness of its history, cultural diversity, and talent. Tourism is an industry that allows local communities to celebrate their culture and authenticity through festivals, events and experiences for visitors who contribute to local economic development and meaningful employment through spending money on services and experiences. Tourism can provide high income earning jobs, flexible work hours and can facilitate creativity and innovation through art, dance and music. However, to ensure the region is on par with other business and lifestyle destinations in the world, it requires support and guidance in developing its workforce skills and services standards.
Tourism has been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Confidence levels across formal and informal businesses are low. Businesses are closed with many workers displaced. Tourism was beginning to recover from the negative impact of the April 21st terror attacks last year but have now taken more steps back as a result of this pandemic.
To kick off the recovery process among tourism businesses across the tourism value chain post COVID 19 situation, S4IG is implementing a ‘Coaching for Business Improvement Program’ to support and address industry concerns especially those in the small medium sized enterprises. Skills for Inclusive Growth is a skills program that uses the Tourism sector to explore and demonstrate successful models of change within skills providers and formal and informal tourism enterprises across Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa districts through showcasing coordinated, demand driven, flexible and inclusive skills development. Skills for Inclusive Growth is an initiative of the Australian Government in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour relations.
This coaching initiative supports over 400 Enterprises, through business support, to recommence their businesses post COVID -19 and adapt to the “New Normal” of running business operations across tourism value chain including the sectors of Accommodation, Food and Beverage, Handicrafts, Leisure, Travel Organizations, tour operators and event managers in destinations and assets in Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa. Industry experts are mobilized to deliver business coaching and training on improving business practices including HR and financial management, E-tourism, pandemic preparedness, safety and security measures, communications, event management, and support enterprises to prepare business plans which includes improved marketing, finance and operations to run and promote business in post Covid 19 context. The objective is to increase visitor flows and visitor spending in the 4 districts.
Enterprises that are interested in seeking assistance to improve their business performance can join this coaching program to support them with developing pricing polices that reflect the expectations of visitors according to industry standards and market segments. This is then supplemented with product innovation, skills training, marketing strategies which in turn generates improved service quality for improved economic outcomes.
The initial orientation and coaching sessions began on 16th of June. These coaching sessions will prepare and build confidence of tourism businesses to rejuvenate their business and contribute to the overall destination marketing models implemented by S4IG with responsible government agencies and training providers in the East and in Polonnaruwa.
Mr. David Ablett – Team Leader of Skills for Inclusive Growth emphasized, “Development of customized training and services linked with enterprise improvement can deliver increased revenues and incomes for those engaged in the provision of quality tourism services. Visitors are looking for innovation, for a unique and authentic Sri Lankan experience”. He went onto say that “visitors don’t want to sit in a resort and experience poor services and activities which can be done everywhere else in the world. The higher value visitor today is looking for something special. They want to experience the real Sri Lanka with its multicultural textures, foods, cultures. Where else in the world can you appreciate and experience so much within such a short travelling distance throughout the island. Wellness, water, waterfalls, waves, wild and wonderful environments – a wonderland!”