Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) initiated the National Sustainable Tourism Certification (NSTC) as the first step towards making Sri Lanka’s tourism industry sustainable with the technical and financial assistance from UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN).
As part of the process, hotels were awarded for their sustainable practices on 5th August 2019 at Ape Game, Battaramulla with the participation of John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife & Christian Religious Affairs; Randy Durband, GSTC CEO; and Dr. Mihee Kang, GSTC Director for Asia-Pacific.
The certification scheme was developed within the global context, with the facilitation of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC). The certification scheme was designed after a series of consultations with the stakeholders where issues, suggestions, and recommendations were obtained. As the pilot project, it was decided to implement the certification in the accommodation sector in the first phase and later open it to all tourism service providers. Auditing of hotels started in April 2019 by the SLTDA staff who were trained before by GSTC.
“Sri Lanka depends on tourism heavily because it is the third biggest revenue generator of the country,” Minister of Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga said. “That is why it is of utmost importance that every aspect of the industry operates with the best possible sustainable practices.”
“Tourism consumes high energy be it water, food, usage of sensitive places or the environment and more tourists lead to more impact on the environment, good and bad. It is important to thoroughly think about how to mitigate the negative impacts while properly managing the above and the answer is – Sustainability which respects the nature, culture, society and ecosystem massively,” said Upali Ratnayake, SLTDA Director-General.
“That is exactly what we intend to do through NSTC – Initiate, measure and monitor the best sustainable practices of the industry and recognize them which in return will provide us with global opportunity, national benefits locally with long term stability. 90% of the tourism sector key players are from the private sector and we hope this will drive them towards sustainability and we can proudly position Sri Lanka as a Sustainable Destination,” added Mr. Ratnayake.
Randy Durband, GSTC CEO, said the adopting better practices will help Sri Lanka draw tourists emerge faster out of a current downturn due to bombing on Easter Sunday. “This certification gives the discipline that the tourists seek in a destination,” Mr. Durband explained.
“We have to do this because we cannot borrow future from the younger generation,” Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman Kishu Gomes said.
An MoU between Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and Global Sustainable Tourism Council was also signed at this occasion.
Parallel to the awards ceremony, a tree-planting ceremony took place prior to a three-day sustainable destination management training program held for Government and Provincial Council officers and industry stakeholders.