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Proposed new Tourism Act comes under fire for ‘divorcing private sector involvement’

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Leading travel and tourism industry specialists, Anura Lokuhetty and Nilmin Nanayakkara, both counting over 40 years of experience in the industry lashed out at the proposed new Tourism Act, which divorces the private sector involvement in the industry completely.

Both specialists stated in one voice to “The Island Financial Review” that, firstly, this is not the time to bring a Tourism Act and secondly, there was no need to bring a new Act. “This is detrimental to the entire industry. It dilutes the importance of the private sector, which contributes more than 90 per cent to the industry, they said.

Lokuhetty the former president of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) recalled that the Tourism Act was first introduced in 1968 and then a new one was introduced in 1978. It created four separate bodies overseeing, Tourism Promotion (SLTBP) Regulation (SLTDA) HR Training (SLITHM) and MICE (SLTCB).

Lokuhetty added: “The private sector plays a 99 per cent role in the industry and has invested billions of rupees to build hotels, maintain them and employ over 600,000 staff.

“The industry brings in around USD 4.5 billion annually (pre Covid-19 era), making it the third forex earner, contributing 12.6 per cent to GDP and there are around 2 million dependents on the industry.

“Unlike in other countries, Sri Lanka travel sector stakeholders did not retrench staff even when the hotels were closed down during Covid-19 and Easter Sunday attacks, shouldering that financial burden as well.

“In addition, we also provide 1 per cent from our turnover and not from profits to the government (in addition to other taxes) as a Tourism Development Levy which is used for promotions and other matters.

“Today there are over 38,000 rooms and 50,000 other accommodation providers, including home stayers, in the industry. Under the present Tourism Act the private sector is very well represented in these four bodies creating a ‘good mix’ and when key decisions are taken the private sector ‘voice’ is represented.

“Under the proposed Act, one body is going to be created scrapping three of the institutions (excluding SLITHM), which will weaken the say of the private sector when it comes to decision making in key sectors, like land allocations (tourism has a large land bank spread all over Sri Lanka), providing budgets for promotions, overseas tours and other key areas and there would be no proper ‘check and balance’ system. One other area is the maintenance and deployment of the TDL fund which is now worth several billion.

“The Act is also going to be passed in a major hurry and this also raises suspicions over the bona fides of bringing such an Act. Some stalwarts of the industry too are not briefed properly and their views too have not been sought out.

” If Sri Lanka Tourism wants to make changes, they can always bring in amendments and not a completely new Act also not at a time when hoteliers are facing the biggest threat to their survival.

“Arrivals have dropped due to Covid -19 and hoteliers are facing power cuts, lack of diesel and gas and also skyrocketing commodity prices and other issues and to burden them with a new Act does not ‘fit’ well at this time.”

Meanwhile, a Tourism Ministry official when contacted said that the industry would only gain by bringing a new Tourism Act since it would speed up decision-making and lead to the betterment of the industry. “Today we have to upkeep and coordinate four bodies and obviously when they are trimmed to two, there are advantages. Still, there would be representation from the private sector and already over 70 tourism associations have endorsed this and are eagerly waiting until it is implemented to reap benefits, he said.

The official added: “It’s the large tourism hoteliers who oppose this as they are only ones reaping benefits from the industry and don’t want ‘small players’ to propose and get involved in the decision-making process. We have also had a series of discussions with several bodies and have also obtained Cabinet approval for this new Act which will help to increase the benefits of the revenue from the industry among small timers as well.”

Meanwhile, Nilmin Nanayakkara, former president of the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) said that the so-called 70 plus associations that Sri Lanka Tourism claims are supporting the industry were never even heard of four years ago and they have suddenly sprung up. “The leading associations are SLAITO, THASL, and ASMET (representing the SME sector) and all of them are against the Act. The current four bodies in tourism are not burdens but assets working towards the betterment of tourism as professionals are in them and they provide valuable inputs to the industry which are highly respected.”



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Sri Lanka’s economic confidence index plummets

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‘No one has rated Sri Lanka’s economic condition as excellent. 1.8 % rated it as good and 1.3 % rated it as getting better. The resulting score was a (-) 96. This rating was (-) 83 in January 2022, a wide ranging Verite Research public opinion survey reveals.

Key findings of the survey:

Government approval rating drops from 10% to 3%

The second round of the Gallup Style “Mood of the Nation” poll was conducted in June by Verité Research. It assessed the approval, satisfaction, and confidence of the nation in relation to the government, the country, and the economy.

The poll was conducted as a part of the syndicated survey instrument by Verité Research. This instrument also provides other organisations the opportunity to survey the sentiments of Sri Lanka.

1. Government approval rating | 3% | To the question, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way the current government is working?” only 3% said they approve. In January 2022 this rating was at 10%.

2. Sri Lanka satisfaction | 2% | To the question, “In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in Sri Lanka?” only 2% said they were satisfied. This rating was at 6% in January 2022.

3. Economic confidence | negative (-) 96 | Multiple choice questions on the condition and trajectory of the economy are used to generate an economic confidence score. The score can range from negative (-) 100 to positive (+) 100. A score above zero means more people see the economic conditions positively rather than negatively. If everyone thinks the economy is in either excellent or good condition, and everyone also thinks it is getting better, the score will be (+) 10. If everyone thinks that the economy is in a poor condition, and everyone also thinks it is getting worse, the score will be a (-) 100. No one rated the economic condition as excellent. 1.8% rated it as good; and 1.3% rated it as getting better. The resulting score was a (-) 96. This rating was (-) 83 in January 2022.

Implementation of “Mood of

the Nation”

The poll is based on an island wide nationally representative sample of responses from 1,052 Sri Lankan adults, conducted in June 2022. The sample and methodology was designed to ensure a maximum error margin of under 3% at a 95% confidence interval. The polling partner was Vanguard Survey (Pvt) Ltd.

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Decline in share market in the wake of rate hike reports

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

CSE trading activities began on a positive note yesterday but during the latter part of the day the market experienced a dip on account of the overall supply chain economy being subjected to a contraction, stemming from the fuel crisis. Consequently, CSE activities were relatively low keyed, market analysts said.

“We are reverting to the negative. There is uncertainty on all fronts, from the political to the economic. Therefore, we are expecting a rate hike on Thursday. This is creating a bit of a cloud and we may see this continuing further, a top market analyst said.

Even if top level decision- making is happening in Sri Lanka the impact is not felt at the grassroots level. This has resulted in unrest in the country, the analyst said.

Amid those developments, both indices moved downwards. The All- Share Price Index went down by 97.9 points and S and P SL20 declined by 34.3 points. Turnover stood at Rs 1.3 billion with one crossing. The crossing was reported in JKH, which crossed 600,000 shares to the tune of Rs 73.2 million, its shares traded at Rs 122.

In the retail market, the top seven companies that mainly contributed to the turnover were; Lanka IOC Rs 611 million (7.3 million shares traded), Expolanka Holdings Rs 173.9 million (one million shares traded). LOLC Holdings Rs 47.4 million (120,000 sha4es traded), Hayleys PLC Rs 46.5 million (697.000 shares traded), Browns Investments Rs 46.3 million (6.4 million shares traded), JKH Rs 21 million (173,000 shares traded) and Softlogic Holdings Rs 20.5 million (794,000 shares traded). During the day 109 million share volumes changed hands in 15000 transactions.

The International Monetary Fund said last Thursday its talks with crisis-hit Sri Lanka had been “constructive”, thereby raising hopes it would soon grant preliminary approval for a desperately needed financial support package, observers said.

Meanwhile, the Colombo Consumer Price index rose 54.6 per cent year-on-year in June against a 39.1 per cent rise in May, according to the Statistics Department.

Yesterday the US dollar rate was Rs 360.73, which is now being controlled due to the prudent fiscal and monetary policies of the Central Bank.

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Dialog Club vision members receive access to an exclusive screening of ‘Jurassic World Dominion’

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In a bold and breath-taking new global adventure, the epic conclusion to the Jurassic film franchise ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ hit theatres across the world on June 10. Just a day after its global premiere, Dialog Club Vision Red members and their loved ones received special access to an exclusive screening of the film at the Kandy City Centre Multiplex on June 11.

The explosive end to the Jurassic era sees two generations of the film’s franchise unite for the first time with Hollywood’s Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard joined by Oscar winner Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill. Dialog Club Vision members were some of the first to witness the utopian world where Dinosaurs and humans co-exist.

With the best interests of its members and their loved ones at heart, Dialog Club Vision continues to deliver a world of exclusivity and privileges such as personalized care, exclusive discounts and offers, lifestyle and entertainment events and more. To explore more exciting offers available for Dialog Club Vision members, and to learn more about Sri Lanka’s premier loyalty programme, customers can visit the MyDialog App or visit dialog.lk/club-vision

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