“Do more than offering moratoria” | Daily News
Revival of Sri Lankan leisure industry

“Do more than offering moratoria”

Chandana Amaradasa
Chandana Amaradasa

The Sri Lanka leisure industry is the worst affected sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the government must do more than just offering moratoria, said Chairman Island Leisure and Vice President Ceylon Hotels Schools Graduates Association (CSHGA) Chandana Amaradasa.

He said that moratoria only defer the loan and in the long term it’s not a 100% saving. Due to the pandemic several travel related companies have seen their vehicles seized while some have already shut down.

He said former leaders like J. R. Jayewardene and R. Permadasa went to the extent of writing off loans during the 1983 violence, JVP and LTTE terror attacks and a similar concession should be considered.

Pointing out how important the travel sector is to the national economy he said that it contributed directly over Rs. 12 billion in 2018 from botanical gardens, national parks, cultural sites, airport Aviation, Government Railway and BMICH.

In addition private sector hotel companies also annually spend around USD 100 million for ‘Sri Lanka destination marketing’ by attending fairs and engaging in other promotions.

Sri Lanka received 2.3 million arrivals into the country and earned US$ 4.4 billion from tourism in 2018, with the revenue up 12% on the $3.9 billion of 2017. This compares to US$ 3.5 billion in 2016 and US$ 2.98 billion in 2015. “Hence this sector needs more attention from the government for survival and look at a wage support scheme/system for tourism employees.”

He also said that though there is over Rs. 3 billion in the Tourism CESS fund, unfortunately regulations bars it to be utilized for an emergency situation of this nature at least to bail out some of the SME’s. At present there are over 20, 000 registered room capacities in Sri Lanka and 85% belong to the SME sector. “They have no means to pay employees and most of them focus on repaying debt.”

He also said that ‘home stay’ providers too are facing huge financial issues.

Amaradasa who is also the Sri Lankan representative of The Global Golf Tourism Organisation (IAGTO) also highlighted a major HR issue that would emerge in the future. “Many youth took to the travel industry for a prestigious and high paying ‘job’.”

Currently, the tourism sector workforce comprises more than half a million and there are over 2 million dependents.

Travel sector employees were working in a clean environment with a clean uniform, enjoying good food and mixing with society of high profile local and foreign people and most importantly with an opportunity of quick promotions and overseas employment.

“However, today youth do not see this ‘silver lining’ in the future and interest to join the leisure sector is fast decreasing.” Another alarming factor is that some of the current employees have found alternative employment and would not join the industry again when it opens up,” he added.

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