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Presidential Task Force needed to put medical tourism strategy in motion, says official

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The political leadership and business community of the country need to show the world that they trust the healthcare system in Sri Lanka in order to convince foreign visitors to choose Sri Lanka for healthcare services, , Ms. Dhammika Wijesinghe, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism says

By Sanath Nanayakkare

Revenue from medical tourism could help national economic recovery and growth, and therefore, we need a Presidential Task Force that could effectively speed up and harness the economic benefits of medical tourism, Ms. Dhammika Wijesinghe, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Tourism said in Colombo on Saturday.

“The main impact of medical tourism is that it brings direct foreign exchange earnings and contributes greatly to government revenues. So we need to invest in the development of local infrastructure to attract foreign medical tourists for treatments. This will help generate foreign exchange revenue to improve the country’s balance sheet,” she said.

She made these remarks at the 135th Anniversary – International Medical Congress 2022 – hosted by Sri Lanka Medical Association, where a session on Medical Tourism was held.

She observed that a Presidential Task Force would need to be established to give impetus to this nascent industry in Sri Lanka.

“The government has developed a National Export Strategy where medical tourism is also included. But we have not been active enough to implement it. That would be a waste of our endeavor made in the first place. Sri Lanka’s potential and capacity for the development of medical tourism and wellness tourism is enormous. So beyond planning, we need real implementation of the plans and that’s where a Presidential Task Force could play a vital role.”

“Also, the political leadership and business community of the country need to show the world that they trust the health system and medical services in Sri Lanka. We have to demonstrate to the world that there is a very good health system in Sri Lanka; our doctors are highly qualified and trained and can cure any disease and help patients, and that they are on par with world class specialists.”

“Only then can we attract foreign visitors here to seek our medical services. Only then will foreign visitors decide to travel across international borders with the intention of receiving medical treatment in Sri Lanka.”

“There is a lot of potential for Sri Lanka to enter and establish its presence and position in the regional medical tourism market, but all relevant stakeholders need to come together to accelerate the demand and adoption of medical tourism, and make Sri Lanka a desired destination for medical tourists,” she said.

According to reports of fact checkers, Thailand medical tourism market is estimated to reach US$ 5,687mn in 2022. Sales of Thailand Medical Tourism market are forecasted to increase at a robust 18.4 % CAGR (compound annual growth rate). Total sales of Thailand medical tourism market represent 2%-7% of the global medical tourism market.

The Malaysia medical tourism market was valued at US$ 1.2 bn in 2020, and is projected to rise at a steady CAGR of 4.5% over the forecast period (2021-2028), with the market valuation reaching US$ 5.1 bn by the end of 2028.



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Top agents from Kuwait visit Sri Lanka on familiarization tour

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Eleven of Kuwait’s top tour operators and travel agents arrived in Sri Lanka this week on Jazeera Airways on a familiarization tour. Jazeera Airways currently operates three flights weekly to Sri Lanka connecting the leisure and labour markets. The familiarization tour was organized and sponsored by Jazeera’s General Sales Agent in Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence PLC.

The familiarization group travelled and enjoyed the highlights of Sri Lanka during their stay in Sri Lanka. Commenting on the tour, Travel agent P Mayur stated “We love the Sri Lankan people’s smile, hospitality and their humbleness” We heard lots of negative news prior to our arrival, and were wondering if we were making the right decision. However, when we came into the country, our experiences were nothing negative”. I am definitely coming back to this beautiful country to enjoy the beaches with my family and it won’t be too long” Another member of the group Sami Malik stated that “it’s amazing to see how Sri Lankan’s love and preserve their cultural values of the country. The rich history and heritage are something our clients would love to discover in Sri Lanka”

The Jazeera airlines familiarization tour concluded with an awards ceremony recognizing the airlines top agents. The event was graced by the Minister of Tourism and Land Harin Fernando and State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya.

Jazeera airlines has good connections in the Middle East region and can contribute to the revival of tourism in Sri Lanka by connecting the middle east travellers to the country. The agent familiarization tour is expected to contribute towards promoting destination Sri Lanka. Jazeera now operates three flights per week from Kuwait to Colombo; however, the airline expects to raise its frequency of flights per week by early 2023. Jazeera Airways operates its best-in-class Airbus 320 Neo aircraft to Colombo, connecting more than 50 destinations across the continents.

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Sysco LABS’ Managing Director, Shanil Fernando Emphasizes HR’s Role in Retaining Local Talent

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Shanil Fernando, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Sysco LABS Sri Lanka, recently spoke at the ‘Employing Tomorrow’s HR Today: The CEO’s Perspective’ panel discussion organized by the Association of HR Professionals Sri Lanka (AHRP).Representing the ICT industry, Shanil shared his insights on retaining and developing talent, unique people initiatives at Sysco LABS, and how emerging technologies like AI are transforming HR processes.

An industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in technology and innovation, Shanil highlighted the importance of HR’s role in transforming the workplace into a sanctuary that gives employees peace of mind to do their best work. Speaking about people challenges, he focused on the local tech industry’s current issue of attrition and emphasized the necessity for crafting a sound employee engagement and retention strategy that addresses both financial and mental well-being.

Alluding to the present economic crisis, he said: “The country’s key industries, including technology, are experiencing significant attrition at the moment. Collectively, retaining talent has become a major challenge. The primary reason for this migration is the socioeconomic impact of the current economic crisis. In order to mitigate this, the economic situation must be addressed urgently. High public taxes will also compound the problem. The government must take the necessary steps to reduce the burden put on the private sector by introducing significant reforms to non–performing State-Owned Enterprises, avoiding public funds being used to keep loss-making SOEs afloat. Privatization or listing such enterprises on the stock exchange will allow them to be scrutinized in the same manner as a well-run private company, ensuring true transparency and accountability. As organizations, what we can do is build mechanisms that insulate employees, as much as possible, from the impact of the current economic crisis. For example, if the company is at an advantage as a FOREX generator, they can share this advantage equitably with their employees.”

Shanil emphasized the importance of transforming modern-day HR professionals into strategic business partners who are creative, innovative and able to proactively deliver solutions. Elaborating on vital steps taken at Sysco LABS, to transform its people operations to be more strategic in identifying talent needs, he said: “We are a strong, culture-oriented company. The pandemic dampened our culture efforts in the last 2 years, but we’re now focused on rejuvenating this culture and HR must be a flexible change agent that works together with other business functions to enhance the workplace experience for everyone. At Sysco LABS, every associate is allocated an HR Business Partner who will support them throughout their entire journey at the company and ensure all their needs are met. This enables us to deliver a more wholesome work experience to our associates.”

Shanil also spoke about how emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) can transform the HR function, noting that AI creates opportunities for greater efficiency and more intelligent decision-making. He suggested that HR leaders must adopt AI as it gives businesses a critical edge when gauging future talent needs and understanding how to better create a compelling people experience.

Summing up the impact of initiatives implemented at Sysco LABS, Shanil said, “Sysco LABS is impacting a Fortune 100 company and a trillion-dollar, global industry from here in Sri Lanka. Our people are our most precious resource, and we strive to make the workplace a sanctuary for all of them. We want our associates to feel supported and cared for, with our initiatives driving engagement and camaraderie reflecting that. It’s these initiatives that have enabled us to maintain a purpose-driven, world-class workspace exposing our associates to global experiences and opportunities.”

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CICT pledges US$ 25,000 for sight-saving surgeries in Sri Lanka

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Another group of Sri Lankans with correctable eye diseases and disorders will soon begin surgery to restore clearer vision, thanks to the latest phase of a community initiative of Colombo International Container Terminals (CICT) in partnership with the Nawaloka Hospital.CICT recently donated US$ 25,000 (Rs 9.25 million at current exchange rates) it has pledged for the project. The donation is part of CICT’s ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project’ that the Company launched in 2015.

Nawaloka Hospital will procure, supply and utilise all the resources needed to implement the project, including providing professional medical staff, lenses, accessories, and other equipment to perform surgeries, under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two organisations. The patients for these free surgeries will be selected from the waiting lists of several government hospitals in Sri Lanka, on the recommendations of the signatory organisations.

Commenting on CICT’s continuing support to this eye care programme, the Company’s General Manager – Administration and Corporate Social Responsibility Mr Grant Yang said: “The C-Blue Restore Sight Project was launched to enable access to eye care, especially for those living in impoverished conditions. The recent economic crisis in Sri Lanka has pushed many more beyond the poverty line, and often, non-emergency healthcare is one of the casualties on the list of priorities. With this latest phase of the project, CICT is reaffirming its commitment to the continuity of this initiative, despite the challenges faced by the business.”

Cataract surgeries, refractive surgeries that reshape the cornea (LASIK surgery), and Corneal Collagen Crosslinking (CXL) including squint correction and keratoplasty will be performed under this phase of the CICT ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project.’ Additionally, selected patients requiring the Avastin injection for visual defects too will be accommodated. Plans to conduct eye camps in certain needy areas identified by CICT are also in the pipeline.

At a ceremony held recently at the Hospital, Mr Grant Yang presented a symbolic cheque to the Chairman and CEO of Nawaloka Hospitals Dr Jayantha Dharmadasa and the Hospital’s Director/General Manager Vidya Jyothi Emeritus Professor Lal G. Chandrasena. Thereafter, the CICT team visited some of the patients scheduled for surgeries. Since the launch of the ‘C-Blue Restore Sight Project’ in 2015, CICT has funded more than 450 cataract surgeries to restore sight, in collaboration with the National Eye Hospital.

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