Saturday, May 29, 2010

Expat Lankans to boost tourism in North

Director General of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Mr.S. Kalaiselvam was in Jaffna and made observations on developing the tourism industry in the north utilising its existing resources. More than the foreign tourists the expatriate Lankans are expected to create a healthy atmosphere for tourism in the north. With historic places of worship and heritage sites the spiritual tourism is also likely to boom in the north according to Mr.Kalaiselvam. Here are excerpts of his interview with us:
Q: How do you see the overall situation in Jaffna at present?
A: Remarkable. Things have improved a lot. People are happy and living without fear of getting caught to an explosion or other types of terrorist attacks. The prices of essential items have come down significantly on par with other parts of the country. Even the security forces personnel are seen moving around in a friendly manner with the people. Plenty of cultural and sports activities are taking place in every nook and corner in Jaffna. Farmers and the fisher folk are happy with good harvests and marketing opportunities.
Q: What is your observation on the possibilities of making Jaffna peninsula a tourist paradise?
A: Several locations for tourism in the Peninsula remain intact. Whereas in the Eastern Province the necessary infrastructure for tourism is in place. In order to make Jaffna as a tourist destination with beach resorts, plenty of things have to be done. We are focusing on improving the infrastructure facilities with regard to the tourism industry and we are hopeful that viable conditions will emerge in developing the industry in the north.
Q: Jaffna peninsula is blessed with scenic beaches, lagoons and the islets ideal for resorts. How about focusing on them?
A: True. There are several beach spots and islets in the peninsula. However most of them remain inaccessible due to the warring conditions in the past. As a result of battles on the ground and in the seas, a vast stretch of beautiful beach areas came under the high security zone. De-mining has to be carried out in those areas and those areas should be made accessible. The islets in the north of course remain ideal locations for resort tourism. However with the improvement of infrastructure facilities to those islets only we could think of going for resort tourism.
Q: Before the beginning of the darker days in the peninsula, there were several hotels, rest houses and restaurants. What are your plans to regenerate them back into the tourist industry?
A: There were hotels such as Subash, Ganam, Ashok and Harbour View which belonged to the private sector.
In time to come those hotels are also expected to successfully serve the tourism industry in the north. But the government has its own plans to develop tourism in the peninsula. There are enough lands available in Jaffna. Therefore apart from the input of the private sector the government will go ahead with its plans of building a healthy tourism industry in Jaffna.
Q: A large number of historically important temples and heritage sites are found in the peninsula. What do you think of promoting spiritual tourism in the region?
A: There are several historically and spiritually important places of worship found in the north. As far as the spiritual tourism is concerned first of all it should be focused on attracting the local tourists.
Places like Nallur and Nagadeepa in the north along with Madhu shrine in Mannar are famous areas for spiritual tourism. Once the accessibility to those shrines become clear more local pilgrims will travel to the north like they travel to worship Dalada in Kandy and the Katharagama in the south. A large number of our expatriate Lankans from all over the world are looking forward to make pilgrimages for these places of worship. So with the local tourists visiting the spiritually important places, foreigners will also begin to visit those places.
Q: Breathtaking Dutch fortresses and several colonial buildings are found in Jaffna. Do you have any plans to make them tourist attractions?
A: For instance the attractive Jaffna Dutch fortresses remain in the high security region. More attention has to be paid in making those heritage sites attractive for tourism.
As a result of thirty long years of war these heritage sites have been terribly neglected with the scars of war. For healthy tourism, improving the heritage sites becomes inevitable and due importance would be given once the high security zones are removed around those sites.
Q: To make the Jaffna peninsula a key tourist destination, what are the plans the Ministry of Tourism have to improve the infrastructure facilities such as airports, seaports, railway and the land routes?
A: The Ministry of Tourism has been offered with the task of rebuilding the Mallakam railway station in the peninsula. Laying the railway track towards north will revamp the train services to the north. The railway could play a vital role in enhancing tourism while connecting Jaffna with other parts of the country. Currently there are several private airlines flying between Colombo and Jaffna. Now the A-9 highway becomes fully operational and there will be more openings as far as the northern tourism is concerned. Plans are currently under way to launch a ferry service for holidaymakers from the south to the north touching Trincomalee.
Q: How about the prospects of investments by the foreign and local investors with regard to the tourism industry in the north?
A: It’s encouraging as lots of our Lankan expatriates have shown their interests in investing in the tourism sector in the north. Already several houses have been refurbished to attract the tourists. The government has also designed a plan to put up a structure with seating facility for 600 people to have conventions. This convention hall will also have 30 rooms. The local tourism is gradually picking up in Jaffna. More healthy developments could be expected next year and in the years to come.

Mr. Seenivasagam Kalaiselvam

Mr. Seenivasagam Kalaiselvam was appointed Director General of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) in December 2002 and continued to hold the same position after it was converted into, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), in September 2007.




Note:

A travel portal with comprehensive information about Jaffna @ http://visit-jaffna.blogspot.com/


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