Saturday, 6 May 2017

SRI LANKA: Aria Resort and Spa Opening June,Rural Tourism Is Priority For Sri Lanka

Amagi Lagoon Resort and Spa Katunayake has completed their second wing and is branded as the Aria Resort and Spa and will be completed by end June.

The new hotel also built with four star facilities offers 43 deluxe, 21 standard and 7 suites. The hotel's General Manager Elsworth Perera said Amagi Lagoon Resort and Spa was great success and the increased demand prompted them to re-invest in the new wing. “We already have good forward bookings for the property,” he added.

He said that Aria also offers a roof top restaurant with a show kitchen with an excellent view of the Negombo Lagoon. This area can accommodate 90 guests.”

He said in a bid to add more recreation facilities they have also received their Boat Safaris to the adjoining Negombo Lagoon on their Pontoon which could accommodate 25 guests. “We offer cocktails and buffet dinner and this service will be available every Friday from end May. This would be ideal getaway for Colombo office staff to spend an evening. ‘Sri Lankan Night’ on Fridays, ‘Chinese Action’ on Saturdays and Sunday Buffet Lunch are also being organised.”

He said in addition they also hope to introduce more water sports and make their lagoon deck area even bigger. “We will also introduce an outdoor bar overlooking the lagoon by end of November.”

He said with the introduction of the new hotel and additional facilities like Spa and Gym and larger garden area today, the hotel is being converted from a transit hotel to the Airport, to a hotel where guests stay for a longer period.

Amagi Lagoon now operates with 21 rooms, 19 standard rooms with one superior room and one deluxe room, which could accommodate up to four guests. The rooms are equipped with modern facilities and amenities including hot/cold water, AC, satellite television and free Wi-Fi and many other amenities, said Group Sales and Marketing Manager, Mohamed Nairaoze.

He said their wedding hall is one of the biggest attractions and the package the hotel offers with accommodation is very attractive. Amagi Lagoon also owns Amagi Beach in Marawila and we also offer this to our foreign guests to get a beach getaway. He said they will also launch a mega international marketing campaign from mid this year mainly in Europe and the Gulf.

According to Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, we have reached above two million tourist arrivals in the year 2016 giving us a net receipt of over US Dollars three and half billion as a whole. Tourism is now becoming one of the fastest growing as well as a promising industry in Sri Lanka.

Although we can be happy about this achievement, can we be equally happy about the distribution of its benefits to common people in the non-urban sector? This question is being increasingly asked, but no proper answer is forthcoming.

In Sri Lanka, tourism is viewed and promoted as a ‘development paradigm’ and a major engine for growth. However, ‘development’ more often than not gets equated with economics, overlooking environmental, social, cultural and institutional dimensions. Especially in a rural context when the economics of tourism take priority, the impact is far greater. Therefore, when we speak of tourism contributing to development we need to speak about it holistically – encompassing dimensions of ethics, equity and justice, of access, local participation and empowerment.

Rural tourism is one of the few activities which can provide a solution to the problems in the rural sector – particularly, rising economic inequity, social discrimination and conflicts arising out of these, as well as differential and poor access to basic civic amenities and services. The development of a strong platform around the concept of rural tourism is definitely useful for a country like Sri Lanka, where almost 81% of the population resides in rural areas.

Besides, there are other factors which are shifting the trend towards rural tourism like increasing levels of awareness, growing interest in heritage and culture and improved accessibility, and environmental consciousness. In the developed countries, this has resulted in a new style of tourism of visiting village settings to experience and live a relaxed and healthy lifestyle. This concept has taken the shape of a formal kind of Rural Tourism.

Before we go forward, we should understand what is really meant by rural tourism. It is a form of tourism taking place in rural areas or settlements, providing employment and income to local population, and offering individualized holiday packages to visitors. Rural tourism is based on accommodation service which is complemented by additional services/facilities relying on the local social, cultural and natural resources, which are exploited according to the principles of sustainable development.

As against conventional tourism, rural tourism has certain typical characteristics. It is experience oriented in locations sparsely populated; it is predominantly in natural environment; it meshes with seasonality and local events and is based on preservation of culture, heritage and traditions.

Sri Lanka has a picturesque natural environment and a special cultural heritage. We can justify that the factors that influence the development of rural tourism are present all over the country. Therefore, rural tourism can easily fit in.

The basis of rural tourism practice is the rural settlement that still retains ancient customs and traditions and also a variety of folk elements, ethnographic artefacts that can be well exploited if they are harmoniously combined with a strong strategy in promoting them. Sri Lanka is full of them.

A number of excellent research papers are available on this subject. Two of them are community based sustainable tourism - a case study of the Monaragala District. Rev W Wimalaratana and D A C Silva and Engaging the rural communities of Sri Lanka in sustainable tourism by Teare Richard, Bandara Chandrarathne.

Rural tourism in Sri Lanka can be addressed firstly, to urban people living in a stressful environing and also to people with middle-income who need a change in daily routine. And secondly, it can also aim at foreigners who want to experience the rural life of Sri Lanka.

Attraction of tourists in rural tourism activities is determined by the village community which means the involving in protecting the environment and using local resources regardless of their type. Leisure does not have to mean only relaxation and board but direct contact with rural community life.

To implement a rural tourism concept in Sri Lanka, the writer believes, what we first need to do a comprehensive study in few selected districts of the country. The purpose for the study should be to understand dynamics of rural based tourism in each district.

As first step, we should identify and map the rural based tourism resources in each selected district. This is an extensive process and the information has to be collected through observation, interview with locals, would-be tourists and government officials.

The identification and mapping of tourist resources in each district should be done on the presumption that all natural and cultural resources of the district are suitable for rural based tourism development.

As second step, we need to examine the potential of rural based tourism in each selected district. The potential can be assessed with the help of awareness of potential tourists about each district and rural festivals, their participation in rural based activities and involvement of communities in various activities for tourists.

Third step is to study the interest of potential tourists in various rural based activities. Data analysis shows that both domestic and international tourists are extremely interested in various rural based activities like a day hikes to pilgrimage sites in the district, natural trails and cultural shows. Some of the international tourists like to explore the area by involving in trekking, bird and butterfly watching.

The fourth step is to check the engagement and willingness of local communities in various rural based activities where tourists also can participate. The analysis will bring out whether the local communities will take interest, participate and are willing to engage in rural based tourism in villages of each district. And if so, to what extent?

The fifth step is to study the role and activities of Non-Governmental Organisations and Provincial Government in the promotion of rural based tourism in each district. The analyses can be done on the basis of the role and activities of Non-Governmental Organisations and Provincial Government in the promotion of rural based tourism.

The sixth step is to study the satisfaction level of potential tourists from the rural based tourism in each district. The analysis can be based on the satisfaction with overall tour experience in villages of each district. We can do a few pilot projects to judge this.

The seventh step is to study the impact of rural based tourism in each district. The three major impacts are possible as the outcome. They are economic and infrastructural impact, socio-cultural impact and environmental impact.

There can be positive impact as well as negative impact in economic and infrastructural because, on one hand, rural based tourism creates jobs in the villages and the jobs created are good but, on other hand, the prices of vegetables, fruits and other day-to-day commodities will increase affecting the others in the rural community.

The socio-cultural impacts will show whether the villagers are satisfied to adopt tourism in their villages because tourism has helped host communities in preserving and promoting their uniqueness and villagers take pride for developing their villages for rural based tourism. Here the negative part is tourists do not know how to behave and bad behaviour such as alcoholism and drug abuse can increase with tourism.

The environmental impacts will show that all local communities are very much concerned in this matter and agree that the natural resources can be better managed and good care can be taken to reduce the negative impacts but garbage and vehicular pollution will increase in the villages with tourism which are not good.

Finally, to make rural tourism a successful venture, we need to make a thorough research about the inadequacy of current policy issues, which need to be addressed for the effective involvement of local people in the tourism decision making process, in the sharing of tourism benefits and in tourism’s contribution towards poverty alleviation.