President tells Colombo hotels to move out of ‘Minimum Room Rate’
Permanently ending the much speculated and highly talked about ‘Minimum Room Rate’ (MRR) issue, President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Colombo City DOES NOT NEED a MRR to determine prices. “Move out of the MRR and compete.”
“Instead the Colombo hoteliers and related travel sector associations should get-together and promote Colombo to get more tourists and join to create more entertainment and dining options to woo more tourists. In comparison to countries like Thailand and Singapore, what we offer for tourists in Colombo is very little,” the President said.
He said that some associations may protest against this move but MRR is certainly not something practical. “Take for example Vietnam where they don’t have a MRR but they attract more tourists than Sri Lanka.”
He also said that the tourism stakeholders should unite to invest or help to bring foreign investors for the proposed development plan near the ‘Presidential House’ area in Fort. “We are planning to systematically move out the Presidential Palace to Madiwela, Foreign Ministry to Jawatte, Navy Headquarters and CID to the Defence Ministry in Akuregoda while other government buildings like the main Post Office too would be moved out to create a zone to attract high end tourists. He also proposed the diversification and improvement of Sri Lankan cuisine, advocating for a fusion of local and international flavors to cater to diverse tastes.
He also said investors have responded positively to convert the Bogambara Prison to a tourist hotel chain and they are also looking at giving away the Kandy Post office also for tourism development. He said that one of the key industries to save the country from debt is tourism and it should be promoted to get 5 million arrivals in 2030 where each will spend around USD 500 per day. He also said that tourism was even evident in the Anuradhapura era with several attractions for visitors. Commenting on the brain drain he said the hotel sector should consider hiring foreign staff.
Answering a plea by host of the event, The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka President Shanthi Kumara (who was re-elected) requesting for a longer 10-year moratorium for the hotel owners whose debt to banks have risen from Rs. 400 billion two years ago to Rs. 700 billion and moving fast to be Rs. 3 trillion the President said this was not possible to do so. “I can give crutches to the industry but you should learn to move out of them.”
Meanwhile Shanthi Kumar also highlighted that the Colombo Municipality charges e hotels 1% tax for cleaning the garbage while super markets, banks and other institutions are charged a flat fee of Rs. 6,000. “We also pay the highest tax in the region of 31%.”
Minister of Tourism Harin Fernando said that after a lapse of 15 years they will launch a global tourism campaign formulated by Ogilvy from next year.
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