Beach Tourism: Preparing for the Travel Boom
The good news is that the situation can only improve. As an investor in the country’s tourism business, I am hopeful the current scenario will change for the better by the end of this year. With that thought in mind, we need to prepare for the eventuality.
Investing in beach tourism
My interest is in beach tourism and together with two other partners, we have invested in a scenic spot in the Tangalle district’s Mawella Bay. We are in the process of completing a 10 bedroom Boutique Hotel, where we have planned for a restaurant that will serve some great beach food.
All that’s for the future; and right now it is preparation time! Beach tourism is a team effort of investors, government authorities, the local community and, of course, the tourists. The government authorities need to identify the best beaches that can be used as tourist locations and make these sites protected areas. They could set aside specific areas for snorkelling, diving and fishing, activities that are very much a part of beach tourism. It is very important to protect these areas so they don’t end up in ruin.
Next happening place: Mawella Bay
That Mawella Bay is the next happening place has been a known fact amongst those in the mid to high range tourism business for more than five years now. The highway has also put Mawella on the map and we expect wonderful things over the coming years, although some things must be put in place before we could take off.
Reopening the tourism industry
The reopening of the tourism industry is absolutely necessary to protect livelihoods and businesses. Especially so for a developing country, where a significant proportion of the workforce comprises informal workers who are highly vulnerable to sudden losses of income.
As restrictions on travel are lifted, there needs to be an emphasis on responsibility and for prioritizing safety and security. This is a crucial moment to strengthen governance in this sector through promoting cooperation among local government, civil society, and state agencies.
We have to remember that it’s not just about Sri Lanka opening but considering restrictions for travellers put in place by other countries i.e. quarantines, testing ect. My hope is that everyone covered by vaccines should be allowed to travel to any country and return without quarantine, which will give our tourism industry a chance. If that happens, I can see more and more travellers coming to Sri Lanka and numbers increasing year on year.
We can take certain measures while the pandemic is still being contained. While I wouldn’t force anyone to have a vaccine, with the rollout of vaccinations you would need proof of vaccines or that you have had the virus and are carrying antibodies for protection. A system needs to be put in place to give assurance to the local communities as well that the opening up of tourism will not put them at risk.
Experts suggest that less accessible and isolated destinations will be perceived as having a lower risk of contagion and therefore will be preferred. People are also more likely to travel independently or in small groups to recover from self-isolation and to avoid crowded places. Therefore, this is the best time to build the boutique hotel and exclusive tourism sector.
Opportunities for surrounding communities
The surrounding communities should be integrated and they need to be a part of what that location offers. Businesses need to employ local staff and support them to become entrepreneurs in their own right.
If we build a strong sense of community that makes the locals proud of the resources they have and what their area offers, they will not allow harmful practices in their area and they themselves will preserve the place they call home.
Promoting sustainable practices
Similar to countries ranked high in the sustainable tourism list like Maldives, these businesses need to have exemplary sustainable building, energy and waste disposal practices with low carbon impact from their activities.
Sri Lanka needs to promote and invest in the ecotourism business because, in the post pandemic world, eco friendly tourism over the next 10 years will increase massively. Sri Lanka has a massive edge over the rest of Asia as it has not been ruined by badly planned tourism and building projects.
In beach tourism post-pandemic, Sri Lanka needs environmentally sound, beautiful and untouched beaches surrounded by nature. This includes working with locals and the local community to showcase the customs and diversity of the local area.
The pandemic has been a game-changer in the way people travel. Traditional tourism aspects countries depended on are no longer relevant and although consumerism might be the same as before, the delivery has to change — become more innovative and efficient. For example, health and safety factors from the airport to the local destination, high levels of hygiene, personal space, etc. If Sri Lanka can get all of this right and move fast to get its act together on time, we can reap the benefits of a travel boom in the coming year!
Note: Zander Combe has more than 20 years experience in tourism in emerging markets in Asia. He is originally from the UK. Having been based in India for 25 years he moved to Sri Lanka in November 2019. During his time in India he set up ‘Extreme Bike Tours’, a company that organised guided motorbike adventures around Asia. It is now based in Galle and owned by his business partners. He now owns a property in Mawella Bay Tangalle which he is developing into a boutique hotel as his next venture with 2 business partners who are also from the UK.