Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena said the tourism industry is the one that can give strongest help to Sri Lankan economy and called on the stakeholders to take innovative steps for its growth. He said tourism can generate the vital foreign exchange to the country.
Speaking at the golden jubilee of the Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel of the Jetwing Hotels in Negombo, he stressed the need for the government to build a network of honorary consuls and representatives abroad to introduce and promote "Destination Sri Lanka" in in collaboration with the stakeholders of tourism industry and the hospitality sector. The services of honorary consuls will not incur any expenditure to Sri Lanka as there are many friends of Sri Lanka abroad who are willing to promote tourism.
The Prime Minister said this kind of parallel honorary consul offices will help to promote Sri Lankan tourism faster as the officers of the diplomatic service are extremely busy exchanging communications in political capitals of the world on major bilateral issues.
The Prime Minister also urged the hospitality industry to look into the possibility of creating entities capable of self generating energy, preferably renewable and assured that the government would like to initiate a discussion on this issue with all relevant stakeholders.
Premier Gunawardena also suggested to work together with the finance sector and the Central Bank to introduce a system to facilitate foreign tourists to pay in preferred forms of electronic payment. “Just as much we encourage half a dozen international credit cards at the moment, it should further smoothen and popularize travelers coming from markets of Asian giants,” he said.
The Prime Minister praised the hotels that involved with communities to develop the food production in the local area. “This is a great initiative and must be fully supported by the Government. I am sure the Hon Minister of Tourism who is also the Minister for Land will agree with me in broadening Government policy of Food Security drive and provide more land for cultivation on short term to the industry and the community living around their hot spots.”
“Our greatest wealth is our human resource. That’s what we must rightly invest. Remember 50 years ago Mr Herbert Cooray only created a family business, but it grew as he started to invest in young men and women, and it is all of you who have made it a world class brand today,” he said.
Premier Gunawardena recalled the services rendered by the pioneer Jetwing Chairman, late Herbert Cooray who faced challenges courageously and expanded the hotel group without running away as some others did in the face of drop of tourist arrivals.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando, Parliamentarian Yadamini Gunawardena, Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray, late founder’s wife Menike Cooray and Directors Ruan Samarasimghe and Shiromal Cooray and top representatives of hospitality industry were present on this occasion.