European Union and Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority unveil first-ever long-distance hiking trail – Adaderana Biz

The Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka, HE Denis Chaibi, and the President of Sri Lankan Tourism, Mrs. Kimarli Fernando, launched the first stage of the island’s first-ever long-distance hiking trail, with the unveiling of signage at the trailhead.

The Heritage Trails project identifies a collection of destination-based walking trails across the island, starting with a 300+ kilometer walking trail through the hills of Sri Lanka. The network of interconnecting trails will be the first in a series of walking trails that will allow visitors to experience the varied terrain, history, culture, food and local community on foot, in short sections or as part of a an experience of several days.

The trail development is part of the EU’s €5.7 million (Rs 1.3 billion) investment in support of Sri Lanka’s National Tourism Strategy – including the development of experiences authentic, inclusive and ecologically sustainable emblems. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed an additional $787,000 (approximately LKR 160 million) to support the initiative. The project is implemented by the International Executive Service Corps.

Sharing his views while riding the trail, Ambassador Chaibi said, “As an avid biker, I have traveled all over the country and am amazed at the tourism potential here, especially when you take the time to go off the beaten track. Sri Lanka has suffered multiple crises since 2019, leaving the tourism industry and the people who depend on it highly vulnerable. The European Union is committed to working closely with the Sri Lankan government. This trail experience allows us to explore the development of more iconic experiences that align with new post-Covid travel trends. We are also delighted that USAID has joined us in this effort.

Meanwhile, commenting on the whole project, Hon. Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said, “We appreciate the support we are getting from the European Union and the United States for this vital sector of our economy and are confident that programs like this will help some of the most more vulnerable to staying in business. and safeguard the livelihoods of the many people directly and indirectly employed in the sector. Travelers from the European Union make up almost half of all tourists visiting Sri Lanka, and we are pleased to see continued growth in arrivals from the EU since October 2021.”

USAID Mission Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Reed Aeschliman, said, “For more than 60 years, USAID has invested in Sri Lanka’s growth. We are delighted to partner with the Government of Sri Lanka and the European Union to highlight Sri Lanka’s natural heritage and support the tourism sector with a long-term sustainable initiative.

The Heritage Trails project complements the foundation of the trail network with initiatives supporting employment and entrepreneurship in tourism. These include a grant program to help create and sustain small businesses that can support new Sri Lankan signature experiences, as well as training for tourism workers, owners and managers.

The European Union and USAID have provided economic and humanitarian support to Sri Lanka for decades. The Heritage Trails initiative is one component of these longstanding partnerships.

Photo – From left to right: Ms Jenny Correia Nunes, Head of Cooperation Section – European Commission, Ms Kimarli Fernando, President – ​​SLTDA, MS Hettiarachchi, Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism, HE Denis Chaibi, Ambassador of the EU Delegation in Sri Lanka, Mr. Reed Aeschliman, Mission Director – USAID, and Ms. Michelle Koscielski, Director of Economic Growth – USAID at the launch of the first stage of the island’s first-ever long-distance hiking trail, after unveiling signage at the trailhead.

From left to right: Mr. Reed Aeschliman, Mission Director – USAID, Ms. Jenny Correia Nunes, Head of Cooperation Section – European Commission, HE Denis Chaibi, Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Sri Lanka, Mr. S Hettiarachchi , Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Miguel Cunat, Heritage Trails Advisor, Mr. Herman Gunaratne, Owner – Handunugoda Estate, Charles Conconi, Project Manager – YouLead, and Ms. Michelle Koscielski, Director of Economic Growth – USAID at the launch from the first stage of the island’s very first long-distance walking trail project


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