Sri Lanka is celebrating its Golden Jubilee of planned tourism this year. In 1967, a year after the establishment of the Ceylon Tourist Board the United Nations declared that year as the “International Year of Tourism” with the tagline – “Tourism: Passport to Peace.” Fifty years later Sri Lanka Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs in association with the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) are organizing a Conference on “Tourism: A Catalyst for Development, Peace and Reconciliation,” reigniting the UN’s call made almost five decades ago to consider tourism as a means to promote peace.
This is all the more significant as the Conference is being held in Passikudah in the Eastern Province which for nearly 30 years was engulfed in the throes of war. This conference which is due to take place from 11th to 14th July 2016 at Amaya Beach Resort, Passikudah will open a new chapter in the renaissance of the tourism industry in the east coast of Sri Lanka.
The main objective of the conference is to identify and discuss the close links between tourism, peace and reconciliation as inter-dependent components in their overall political, economic and social-cultural dimensions; the contribution of tourism development to this process and the opportunities and challenges faced both by the public and private sectors; and tourism development in areas that were inaccessible to tourists due to the conflict.
The Conference will also discuss local community involvement and “peace sensitive tourism” with the purpose of creating a sense of inclusiveness of the local communities through the greater participation of foreign tourists in socio-cultural activities. Another key area that will be discussed is ‘public private partnerships and peace tourism.’ The important subject of ‘marketing and rebranding of post-conflict destinations’ is also on the agenda.
Among the key personalities participating in this high profile conference are Minister of Tourism Development, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs, Hon. John Amaratunga, the Secretary General of the UNWTO, Mr. Taleb Rifai, Chair, Petra National Trust of Jordan, HRH Princess Dana Firas, Minister of Tourism of Haiti, Hon, Guy Didier Hyppolite, Deputy Minister of Tourism of Cambodia, Hon. Chantha Tith and a number of tourism experts and around 60 international delegates.
A highlight of the conference will be the ceremonial presentation of an Open Letter by the UNWTO and World Travel and Tourism Council to President Maithripala Sirisena on July 12th 2016. The sessions will close on the 15th of July with a signing ceremony of the Private Sector Commitment to the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.
Speaking about this historic meeting Minister of Tourism Development, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs, Hon. John Amaratunga said, “My Ministry together with the UN World Tourism Organisation is jointly organising this historic conference which will no doubt show us the way forward in making tourism a catalyst in developing the north and east while also playing an important role in establishing peace and reconciliation.”
Minister Amaratunga added, “This is also the first time that an event of this magnitude is being held in the Eastern Province after the end of the war and augurs well for the renaissance of the tourism industry in the north and east.”
Sri Lanka Tourism is making use of this opportunity to showcase the north and east to this influential group so that they could, in turn, deliver a positive message about Sri Lanka to the rest of the world. As part of the programme the delegates are scheduled to tour Trincomalee and Jaffna to obtain a first-hand experience of these tourism hubs in the east and north respectively.
World Tourism Organization is the United Nation’s specialized agency mandated with the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability and offers leadership and support to the sector in advancing knowledge and tourism policies worldwide.