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‘Strict health protocols vital for safety of travellers when airport reopens’

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As COVID-19 is a health pandemic affecting most nations and Sri Lanka, there need to be strict health protocols to ensure the safety of not only our citizens but also international travellers.

For this purpose, Sri Lanka Tourism published the Health Protocol for the Tourism Sector in June 2020 based on global best practices, giving ample time for the industry to be familiar with the guidelines.

Tourism entry protocols and preparedness

Sri Lanka Tourism was one of the first in the Asian region to prepare and issue a comprehensive COVID-19 Health Protocol for the industry which was developed and issued with the support of the Ministry of Health, the UN World Health Organization and the input of the industry.

Currently, over 92 establishments; accommodation providers & tour operators have been awarded the Safe & Secure Certification to service & accommodate international tourists for the first 14 days. We continue to audit and award certifications.

Global recognition

Sri Lanka received the Safe Travel Stamp from World Travel & Tourism Council, reflective of the sound protocol implemented by Sri Lanka Tourism. This includes the independent auditing firm KPMG inspecting the ‘Safe and Secure Certification’ that provides global travellers with the comfort and confidence that Sri Lanka has taken all necessary steps to ensure safety.

The audits are conducted free of charge for first-time certification where the costs are being borne by SLTDA. Auditing and certification are stringent as they should be to ensure high health and safety standards, in line with other countries in the region. Considering the nature of the virus as compromises can be dangerous.

Certification includes a QR code that will permit guests to provide feedback on the health & safety protocols followed by their hotel & service provider, which will enable continuous assessment, besides inspection by the PHIs and regional health officers.

Awareness and training

Several training sessions were conducted on Pandemic Preparedness for SMEs, designed and rolled out together with S4IG Australia and Asian Development Bank. COVID-19 guideline training was conducted partnering with Market Development Facility (MDF) of Australia and the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL). 

To all the stakeholder associations, Sri Lanka Tourism kindly suggests you arrange similar training programmes for your members and we will support by providing trainers who are familiar with the guideline.

Airport opening protocol

A detailed Airport Opening Protocol has been developed in the last several months and presented to the Minister of Health. Another Committee has been appointed to again review the protocol, which we are made to understand will further delay the airport opening.

“This is a global health pandemic and we are guided by the health officials. Diluting the health protocols would compromise the safety of international travellers and citizens when the airport reopens. Unless the Ministry of Health gives us the approval to relax the health and safety protocols, we are unable to do so.

‘Meanwhile, we will continue to support our stakeholders to ensure the safety of all and reach out to support you to thrive in the new normal that we face at this time” Sri Lanka Tourism chairperson Kimarli Fernando shared.

‘Safe & Secure’ certification

This guideline is available on the SLTDA official website and can be accessed through  https://sltda.gov.lk/storage/documents/SLTourism-OperationalGuidelines.pdf.  

The guideline provides direction to all tourism service providers on how to carry out their operations in a responsible manner adhering to the health protocols. While every tourism service provider is expected to familiarize with the overall guideline contents, chapter 4 is specifically dedicated to the accommodation service sector and chapters 3 & 6 provide guidance to travel agents, tour operators and tour crews. Chapter 5 is for other tourist facilities and services including stand-alone restaurants, cafes, theatres, supermarkets, shopping malls etc., while chapter 7 is for attraction sites and activity places.

Any SLTDA registered tourism service provider from accommodations, travel agents, tour operators, tours crews (tour guides and chauffeurs) or other services can apply for ‘Safe & Secure’ certification, if they are ready to be audited by the KPMG. The cost of the first audit as mentioned earlier will be borne by SLTDA and to apply for certification, SLTDA registration with license renewal is a mandatory requirement. 

The application is available online and can be accessed through https://sltda.gov.lk/safe-certification. Based on the applied date, the audit schedules will be prepared by SLTDA and forwarded to KPMG for implementation.

For the accommodation sector, travel agents/tour operators and stand-alone facilities, the assessments will include completing of KPMG’s initial checklist/questionnaire by the relevant service provider, which will be followed by the physical on-site audit at a pre-arranged date.

Assessment of the tour crews including tour guides and chauffeurs are based on an examination conducted by KPMG to check the level of overall knowledge and awareness on the guideline contents with special attention to details in chapters 3 & 6 of the guideline.

(SLTDA)



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Lanka inflation hit 70.2% in August

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Food prices climbed 84.6 percent, while prices of non-food items rose 57.1 percent in the crisis-hit island nation.

(Al Jazeera) Consumer inflation in Sri Lanka accelerated to 70.2 percent in August, the statistics department has said, as the island nation reels under its worst economic crisis in decades.The National Consumer Price Index (NCPI) rose 70.2 percent last month from a year earlier, after a 66.7 percent increase in July, the Department of Census and Statistics said in a statement on Wednesday.

Food prices climbed 84.6 percent, while prices of non-food items rose 57.1 percent in the tourism-dependent South Asian country of 22 million people.The Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) in August said the inflation rate would moderate after peaking at about 70 percent as the country’s economy slowed.

The NCPI captures broader retail price inflation and is released with a lag of 21 days every month.The more closely monitored Colombo Consumer Price Index (CCPI), released at the end of each month, rose 64.3 percent in August. It acts as a leading indicator for national prices and shows how inflation is evolving in Sri Lanka’s biggest city.

Sri Lanka’s economy shrank 8.4 percent in the quarter through June from a year ago in one of the steepest declines seen in a three-month period, amid fertiliser and fuel shortages.

“Inflation is expected to taper from September,” said Dimantha Mathew, head of research for Colombo-based investment firm First Capital. “However, inflation is only likely to moderate and reach single digits in the second half of 2023.”

An acute dollar shortage, caused by economic mismanagement and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has left Sri Lanka struggling to pay for essential imports including food, fuel, fertiliser and medicine.

The country earlier this month reached a preliminary deal with the International Monetary Fund for a loan of about $2.9bn, contingent on it receiving financing assurances from official creditors and negotiations with private creditors.

India on Tuesday said it had begun talks with Sri Lanka on restructuring its debt and promised to support the crisis-hit neighbour mainly through long-term investments after providing nearly $4bn of financial aid.

The High Commission of India in Colombo said it held the first round of debt talks with Sri Lankan officials on September 16.

“The discussions held in a cordial atmosphere symbolise India’s support to early conclusion and approval of a suitable IMF programme for Sri Lanka,” the High Commission said.

Sri Lanka will make a presentation to its international creditors on Friday, laying out the full extent of its economic troubles and plans for a debt restructuring.

The Indian High Commission also said New Delhi would continue to support Colombo “in all possible ways, in particular by promoting long-term investments from India in key economic sectors”.

India’s support to Sri Lanka this year has included a $400m currency swap, a $1bn credit line for essential goods and a $500m line for fuel. In addition, India has also deferred payment on Sri Lankan imports of about $1.2bn and given a credit line of $55m for fertiliser imports.

The High Commission said India had continuing development projects worth about $3.5bn in Sri Lanka, whose president earlier this month asked his officials to resolve obstacles to projects backed by India. He did not specify the obstacles or the projects.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka will turn a free trade agreement with India into a comprehensive economic and technological partnership.

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Raigam Wayamba Salterns Group turnover tops 1 bn

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Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC saw its group turnover increase from Rs. 959.6 million to Rs. 1,147 million recording a growth rate of 19.5% year on year.Despite the fact that the financial year 2021/2022 was filled with many challenges, as a result of prudent management practices implemented and followed, the Raigam Wayamba Group was capable of reporting its ever-highest growth in 2021/2022,” said Chairman, Raigam Group, Dr. Ravi Liyanage.

Raigam Wayamba Salterns PLC, which was listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) in 2010 is the front line player in the value added salt market in Sri Lanka and it supplies a range of consumer salt products under the popular brands “Isi”, “Ruchi”, “Welcome” and “Triple Washed” as well as various salt products used as an input for different industries in bulk form.All the consumer products of Raigam Wayamba Salters are SLS certified for its quality and consistency and the processes are ISO certified.’8

The Raigam Wayamba Salterns Group is equipped with salterns, salt refineries and processing plants located in Puttalam and Hambantota districts. In addition to that the raw material supply for these operations has been ensured by the 1,800 Acre saltern established in Kuchchaweli in Trincomalee District by the parent company of the Raigam Group. Further the Puttalam Salt Limited (one of the successor to the National Salt Corporation) is also an associate company of the Raigam Group.

The well-known Raigam brand and state of the art island wide distribution network are distinct strengths of the Raigam Group. The Raigam distribution network operates on a latest IT platform and also includes distribution channels for modern trade, industry and bakery sectors.

Sri Lanka’s economy which was under-performed for two years due to COVID pandemic situation was experiencing the impacts of the foreign exchange crisis in the latter part of the financial year 2021/2022. Despite the fact that the financial year 2021/2022 was filled with many challenges, as a result of prudent management practices implemented and followed, the Raigam Waymba Group was capable of reporting its ever-highest growth in 2021/2022.

The group turnover increased from Rs. 959.6 million to Rs. 1,147 million recording a growth rate of 19.5% Y to Y. At the same time the Profit after Tax grew from Rs. 149.7 million to Rs. 215.6 million at an annual growth rate of 44%. As a result of these successful financial performances the Earning Per share for the year stood at Rs. 0.76 compared to Rs. 0.53 in the corresponding year. This has made a significant impact on the value of the shareholders’ investment increasing the Net Asset Value Per Share form Rs. 5.06 to Rs. 5.74.

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Singer’s legendry sewing industry and Academies developing skills and entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka

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A name synonymous with Singer (Sri Lanka), Singer sewing machine has over the years become an indispensable product at local households, helping thousands of women and men to make a living through a sewing business. For over six decades, Singer has been manufacturing its trademark sewing machines in Sri Lanka. Singer brand has claimed many firsts in sewing machine innovations including the world’s first zig-zag machine and the first electronic sewing machine.

Singer Industries, a subsidiary of Singer (Sri Lanka) manufactures traditional, portable and digital sewing machines at a fully-fledged facility, where it provides direct employment for over 100 factory workers and accommodates around 150 service agents. The traditional sewing machines are of two variants such as the straight stich and the zig-zag sewing machine, while the portable and digital sewing machines cater to the modern customers. Singer Industries is mandated with assembly of sewing machines and manufacturing of cabinets and stands for sewing machines.

The sewing machine stands and cabinets are 100% locally manufactured with the help of local suppliers who also depend from sewing machine manufacturing. Singer Industries also consists of a strong R&D section for sewing machine innovations. All the sewing machines produced by Singer Industries are distributed by its parent company, Singer (Sri Lanka) through their 431 distribution touch points. Currently, Singer sustains its dominance as the market leader for domestic sewing machine industry with a market share of 85%. Among the facilities, Singer Industries provides to its customers, it has deployed special service technicians at island wide service centres for technical assistance and support related to sewing machines. Its YouTube channel has access to over 130 technical assistance videos to further support its valued customers.

The name ‘’Singer’’ is closely associated with sewing. One of its major contributions to the local sewing industry is the Singer Fashion Academy. For more than 60 years, the Academy has helped thousands of individuals to develop sewing skills and become entrepreneurs. The Fashion Academy conducts sewing courses and diplomas while a degree pathway is to be implemented soon to further support students. The Academy is also the first and only institute in the country to receive course validation status from the Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) in the UK.

As of today, the academy consists of 54 branches Island wide and offers 22 sewing courses, 2 diplomas and another 10 courses as part of its Diwi Saviya program for low-income families. Annually, over 5000 – 6000 students get enrolled in Singer Fashion Academy’s courses. In addition to the physical classes, the academy conducts online courses and also provides a recorded version of lessons to further facilitate students. During the last decade, over 60,000 students have successfully completed the Fashion Academy’s courses and some of these students have already started their own sewing businesses. The Fashion Academy has helped in developing the passion of sewing among Sri Lankans and as a result, sewing has become a hobby among many.

Sewing can be considered one of the most feasible self-employment opportunities with its potential to generate a good income. A business of one’s own is a luxury at present due to current economic crisis. Many individuals who started their sewing businesses from scratch have developed their businesses to highly profitable ones. Singer Fashion Academy has all the resources ready to help develop sewing skills and is committed to develop a skilled workforce for the betterment of the country.

(Company news release)

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