New infrastructure being built across the country is the most visible evidence of the peace dividend Sri Lanka has been enjoying since the end of nearly three decades of conflict.
The country has been pursuing an ambitious goal to be a "five-hub economy" built around the aviation, maritime, energy, commerce and knowledge sectors. Lately there has been talk of a "5+1 hub" approach that adds tourism to the list.
To reach those goals, the government has tried to broaden the scope of opportunities available to the private sector and to seek investments and cooperation in a wide range of areas with foreign partners, including Thailand.
The work is being pursued under the framework of "Mahinda Chintana: Visions for the Future", a comprehensive 10-year development plan drawn up in 2006, even as the civil war was raging. Since then, a lot has been achieved to improve conditions at the rural, provincial and national levels, said Esala Weerakoon, additional secretary in the Ministry of Economic Development.
Increasing tourism was one of the ministry's main targets to foster more economic growth. Programmes to upgrade infrastructure and attract direct foreign investment in the tourism industry were introduced with an aim to attract 2.5 million tourists by 2016, he said.
Sri Lanka last year welcomed 1.27 million international tourists, a 26.7% increase from the previous year. One area it wants to promote is the lucrative meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (Mice) business. "We want to make Sri Lanka another suitable destination in Mice tourism," Mr Weerakoon said.
Human resource development is one essential element for success in the tourism sector, and he said Thai specialists in tourism business could be invited to train Sri Lankan lecturers in order to upgrade the tourism curriculum and improve teaching methods and skills.
The proposal was made during a visit to Sri Lanka by Sasiwat Wongsinsawat, deputy director-general of the Department of South Asian, Middle East and African Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
Courtesy: Bangkok Post