UNDP collaborates with Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to rebuild tourism

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UNDP collaborates with Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to rebuild tourism

Mon August 2, 2021, 8:50 p.m. SL time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

August 02, Colombo: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), focused on rebuilding Sri Lanka’s tourism to be sustainable, green and resilient.

Sigiriya, already a popular attraction among tourists, has been targeted for sustainable destination certification, especially given the issues noted by tourists such as overcrowding, congestion, and plastic pollution, among others.

As part of the sustainable destination management certification program, the Ministry of Tourism and SLTDA, in collaboration with the UNDP-BIOFIN project, have taken steps to develop an implementation support plan, to ensure sustainability of this cultural excellence and seeks to expand it beyond Sigiriya into other wonders across the island, according to the UNDP.

Sigiriya: the fortress of the Lion Rock

Sigiriya, considered one of Sri Lanka’s most treasured historical monuments, has long been recognized as an architectural marvel of town planning and engineering, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1982. Converted to royal palace after King Kashyapa’s flight from the then capital Anuradhapura, the downtown bleachers, water gardens and moat are credited for their advanced and ingenious design. The richly decorated frescoes and the wall of mirrors have also led Sigiriya to become one of the most important archaeological attractions in Sri Lanka tourism. The latest addition to Sigiriya’s accolades is the recent Bloomberg announcement, which ranked the Fortress of Lion Rock as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Bloomberg’s announcement comes at the right time for Sri Lanka, as the island plans to take advantage of new patterns of behavior that are expected to emerge among post-pandemic travelers. According to experts from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), travelers are now more likely to demand a focus on sustainability, connections to local communities, outdoor cultural experiences and based on nature – in other words, the ethics of travel in our little island home. Prior to global travel restrictions, Sri Lanka’s tourism sector was the third largest source of exports, accounting for around 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, with the sector directly employing 250,000 people and up to 2 million indirectly. The number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka almost doubled from 1.5 million to 2.3 million from 2014 to 2018. Revitalizing this sector through a fast, clean and green recovery could bring tangible benefits to the country. Sri Lankan economy and island communities.

Reconstruction tourism

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), has focused on this: rebuilding tourism as a resilient and sustainable sector. The new tourism roadmap, “Plutting People First: Building a More Resilient Tourism Sector in Sri Lanka”, aims to rename Sri Lanka, which for decades has been identified as a low-spending mass market, into a unmissable and recognized experience. for its niche, indigenous products and services around nature, well-being, culture and adventure. It also aims to rethink the industry to protect its people. Sri Lanka’s tourism is still reeling from the devastating Easter attacks in 2019 and is only taking its bearings in the face of the collapse in global travel and the effects of COVID-19. This roadmap for Sri Lanka aims to provide social safety nets for industry players to withstand such untimely events in the future. UNDP will continue to support the Government of Sri Lanka in updating the Strategic Action Plan for Tourism Development 2021-2024, while also enabling Sri Lanka to transition to sustainable tourism by creating guidelines and standards. for nature-oriented tourism.

Before the pandemic, SLTDA placed sustainability at the heart of the revival of this sector, launching the National Certification for Sustainable Tourism in 2018 with the financial and technical support of the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN). Such programs are essential, as tourism is often a source of pollution and degradation of biodiversity, with the benefits of tourism not being passed on to local communities. This certification program aims to promote sustainable accommodation, destinations and tour operators.

The first phase of obtaining certification for accommodation has been completed, while SLTDA and UNDP are currently focusing on obtaining sustainable destination certifications for 9 destinations in the 9 provinces of the island. This certification system makes it possible to classify tourist destinations according to the overall quality of the service and the exclusivity of the experience. Currently, 28% of the total income of visiting international tourists is generated by attractions related to biodiversity. This certification will further contribute to tourism, attracting more environmentally conscious tourists who will generate more income to help improve the biodiversity of these destinations. Despite the great value of these attractions, virtually no income is reinvested in the development and conservation of these attractions and its surrounding habitats. Destination certification aims to sustainably manage existing biodiversity, by encouraging major tourist destinations to reinvest 0.5% (equivalent to USD 5 million per year) in biodiversity management. The program injects funds into the conservation of natural resources and surrounding local communities, ensuring that tourism is for people and the planet, leaving no one behind.

Sigiriya: the path to sustainability

Sigiriya, already a popular attraction among tourists, has been targeted for sustainable destination certification, especially given the issues noted by tourists such as overcrowding, congestion, and plastic pollution, among others.

Ramitha Wijethunga, national project coordinator of the UNDP Sri Lanka climate and environment team, also notes that “the importance of protecting Sigiriya for future generations is very clear now. As part of the sustainable destination management certification program, the Ministry of Tourism and SLTDA, in collaboration with the UNDP-BIOFIN project, have taken steps to develop an implementation support plan, to ensure sustainability of this cultural excellence and seeks to extend it beyond Sigiriya into other wonders across the island ”.

Nature-based solutions

Some of these plans include creating a plastic-free zone, training neighboring communities as interpreters, managing tourist flows through digital technology, developing nearby attractions such as Pidurangala and Kaludiya Pokuna for overflow and distribution of visitors. Tourism depends on the preservation of an attractive environment and certification encourages tourism providers to rebuild these places so that they are more environmentally conscious.

National certification as a sustainable destination is a first step in promoting nature-based solutions for the country’s green development. As reported by the UNWTO, a green recovery is essential after the pandemic, to catalyze the responsible recovery of the tourism industry, balancing the needs of the people and the planet for Sri Lanka’s green growth.


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