Developing Sustainable destinations has been given top priority by SLTDA. Sustainable tourism is a long-term goal for Sri Lanka, and the importance of sustainable tourism cannot be underestimated for Sri Lanka to work towards a positive overall balance in environmental, socio-cultural, economic and experiential impacts for tourists and locals.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority considers sustainability as a key driver to preserve and conserve the island’s outstanding natural and cultural heritage to safeguard the destination for our people and our visitors for now and for the future.
The country is blessed with unparalleled natural resources, wildlife, unique cultural heritage and warm and friendly locals. Being the number one designation means that we will see a tremendous growth in tourists visiting the island in the years to come. We have initiated sustainable policies to implement a clear cut sustainable tourism strategy supported by rigorous projects and programmes. This will ensure that our nation will substantially benefit from the economic growth spurred by the tourism sector and in return our resources are preserved and protected.
SLTDA and UNDP signed an agreement to establish National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme NSTCS for Sri Lanka Tourism. Under this agreement UNDP is providing technical and financial assistance to the SLTDA to design and implement a pilot project for sustainable tourism certification.
The main reason for the Project to have started is to put into action the Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan TSP 2017-2020. In the TSP, sustainability occupies an important place. Sustainable tourism in all aspects of tourism development and a national sustainable tourism certification scheme has been identified as a crucial element, placing emphasis on the development of the country’s tourism industry.
With international arrivals expected to rise globally, destinations strive to enhance their tourism competitiveness. While tourism growth brings positive outcomes for countries, there could also be negative impacts, unplanned tourism could lead to problems. Against this background, Sri Lanka government too with its ambitious growth targets of tourists arrivals, acknowledges that the tourism industry need to continue in offering positive tourism experiences ensuring the long term sustainability. It’s not a secret that some tourism hot spots are already feeling the pressure of tourism.
This project was designed considering the current importance given to sustainable tourism globally, and to successfully compete as a highly demanded destination. Therefore, the global context was considered in designing the project so that NSTCS will be relevant not only to Sri Lanka but also internationally.
Sri Lanka Tourism reached the No. 1 ranking as Top Destinations to visit in 2019 by the Lonely Planet, followed by Sri Lankan cuisine ranking to No. 1 in BBC Good Food 15 food trends for 2019. Research of more than 1.3 million social media posts found the Asian city location travellers most want to take a pictures of- Colombo ranked No. 1. These are very valuable recognitions that any destination would aspire to achieve. What this means to Sri Lanka is, it will experience a rapid influx of tourists to the Island. This is all the more reason why Sri Lanka should treat sustainability as an urgent intervention without delay. NSTCS will lead Sri Lanka Tourism in the right direction.
Given the vast and complex nature of all tourism service providers, this project scope considers the accommodation sector in the first phase. Already the first batch of hotels have applied for certification and their impressive sustainable practices will be recognized through this scheme.
Minister of Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Affairs, Hon. John Amaratunga explains that "Sustainable development is the foundation for developing Sri Lanka as a tourism destination. Our strategic plan identifies the need and the importance of growing the industry in a sustainable manner. We have already embarked on a valuable journey to retain Sri Lanka as a No 1 Destination in the World” He further stated that “UNDP’s technical assistance in sustainable tourism is very relevant and timely to our country.”
Mr.Kishu Gomes, Chairman STDA remarked that “Sri Lanka Tourism has optimistic goals to be achieved in the next 3 to 5 years, these deliverables can only be ensured if we grow the industry in a sustainable manner where product and service quality is maintained on par with the best of the world. Then we will have satisfied repeat tourists and they will bring more tourism to the country through word of mouth publicity.”
The Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka, Jorn Sorensen stated “The Adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals presents us a huge opportunity to put Sri Lanka on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. This is why UNDP is pleased to partner with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to make the tourism industry more sustainable in the long run and ensure its benefits are more widely shared."
The project involves a partnership of SLTDA, BIOFIN and UNDP. BIOFIN is a UNDP managed global collaboration to develop and implement an evidence-based methodology that improves biodiversity outcomes using finance and economics.
SLTDA is the government authority tasked with planning, development, regulation, and policy implementation of tourism and related industries.
Signed Agreement was exchanged by the Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Mr. Kishu Gomes and UNDP Ms. Tharuka Dissanaike, Policy and Design Specialist UNDP in the presence of the Hon John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Affairs, and Director General SLTDA, Mr. Upali Ratnayake.
All the government agencies and industry association representatives participated in a stakeholder meeting in November 2018 to discuss and appoint stakeholder committee members for the National Sustainability Certification Scheme.
Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority partnered with the GSTC to conduct a comprehensive training on sustainability criteria to Sri Lankan Hotels on the universally accepted GSTC sustainable tourism standards. This training was attended by over 40 hotel representatives along with the tourism sector association representatives , a strong delegation of key officials from government agencies directly and indirectly related to the tourism sector such as in wildlife, coast conservation, forestry , urban development , wildlife, cultural heritage, environment, coast conservation, industry associations - tourists hotels, tour operators and travel agents etc. too participated. 29/11/2018
Under the Sri Lanka - Korea Tourism Cooperation, a seminar was held in December 2018 by experts around the world in the field of tourism and digital economy delivering timely educational knowledge to the tourism sector in Sri Lanka. The programme included a key note speech, lectures and panel discussions. Experts shared valuable knowledge and innovative solutions for sustainable tourism and digital transformation.
A partnership has been created with the United Nations Development Programme UNDP BIOFIN Sri Lanka and SLTDA to obtain technical assistance through Bio Diversity Finance Initiative BIOFIN Project to establish a National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme NSTCS.
Commencing with a workshop held in May 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka involving all key tourism stakeholders to discuss ‘A Road Map for National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme’ initial scope and modalities of a pilot project was discussed for a national certification scheme.
In developing NSTCS, SLTDA has engaged all tourism stakeholders - government agencies and the private sector in a partnership. This has provided a platform to identify respective aspirations of each party to move towards a mutually benefiting outcomes with the national interest as the foremost objective.
Given the vast and complex nature of all service providers in Sri Lanka Tourism, initial sustainability certification is selectively carried out to a sample in the accommodation sector.
The pilot project will select applicants for the certification through a sustainability survey and select qualifying hotels for certification. Currently it is only limited to hotels participated in the sustainability survey.
With great enthusiasm a large number of hotels have applied for the NSTCS certification process. Already a significant number of hotels are completing the application form. The first batch of certifications will be awarded to the qualifying hotels conforming to the Sri Lanka Tourism Standards.