"Sri Lanka should focus on the human element in tourism, saving jobs connected to the tourist trade, relaunching small tourism-related businesses, and recovering the visitor flow that makes economies work," said the Secretary-General of World Tourism Organisation (WTO) Francesco Frangialli, in a very short interview with the "Daily News".
According to him, the recently launched 'Phuket Action Plan' in Thailand also focused on jobs, small type businesses and the getting tourists back to the affected countries. " The main goal of the Phuket Action Plan is to speed up recovery of the tourism sector in the affected destinations, by restoring traveller confidence in the region. The plan also aims to help destinations resume normal operations by maximizing the use of existing tourism infrastructure and by helping small tourism-related businesses and employees", he said.
"The tourism sector is not only for airlines. On one hand, it functions as a small independent company. Taxi drivers to shop keepers earn incomes through tourism. Therefore, in Sri Lanka too, you have to keep them active by proving them opportunities to regain their income in the post tsunami period", he pointed out. Frangialli said: "The Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatra, who attended the emergency task force meeting, applauded the plan, saying,"The livelihood of thousands of people living in the affected areas depend on tourism and their livelihoods cannot return to normal if they cannot earn their living from tourism. Our task is to return trust and confidence to the international community of tourism", he added.
However, Frangialli ensured that Sri Lanka's tsunami battered tourism sector is already on course for an early recovery surpassing its similarly affected South Asian neighbours." Recovery is already on the way and it is coming faster than expected", he said. Meanwhile, Frangialli also emphasised several facts that have been outlined by Ralf Corsten in his assessment report on Sri Lanka's post-tsunami tourism. " One important fact that he had noticed is the teamwork strength between the government and the private sector in handling the relief efforts", he said.
He also observed that the tsunami tragedy occurred at a time tourism was booming all over the world in 2004 with arrivals growing by 10 percent worldwide, 33 percent in South Asia and 13 percent in Sri Lanka.
However, tourists are once again being welcomed in the affected countries. Phuket reports about 75% of its resorts are operating normally with no signs of the tsunami on several beaches. In the Maldives, about 80% of resorts are operating normally. Cultural tourism to the interior of Sri Lanka continues although some beach areas remain closed, while Indonesia's main tourism destinations are thousands of km from the devastated Aceh province in northern Sumatra."