Sri Lanka Awarded for Ecotourism Initiatives

Sri Lanka Awarded for Ecotourism Initiatives

The winning of two prestigious accolades at the Sri Lanka Tourism Awards 2011 is a ¨triumph for ecotourism in Sri Lanka, ¨ says Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF) after being awarded  ´Best Initiative for Ecotourism Research, Training and Education in Sri Lanka´ and ´Best Model Community Based Tourism Project in Sri Lanka´ at the awards ceremony held on 30th August 2012 in Battramulla, Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Awards pay tribute to organizations and individuals for their excellence and inspired achievements whilst contributing towards the strengthening and empowering of Sri Lanka´s tourism industry. This annual event, held for the 5th consecutive year under the aegis of Sri Lanka Tourism, provides a firm platform for industry recognition. These Awards also present an opportunity for tourism operators to reinforce their commitment in perpetuating the visitor experience and celebrate their success in an evolving business environment. An objective of this year’s Awards was to recognize and reward excellence in the travel and tourism industry, thus promoting and enhancing the delivery of service standards.

SLEF, which recently contributed to the UNWTO publication ¨Compendium of Best Practices and Recommendations for Ecotourism in Asia and the Pacific, ¨ has been actively contributing to the development of ecotourism in Sri Lanka for 14 years.  Working hand-in-hand with other likeminded organizations in Sri Lanka, South and South-East Asia and the Asia Pacific Region more generally, SLEF has promoted community based tourism projects and poverty alleviation programmes through tourism.

SLEF has also introduced the concepts of ´Community Ecolodges´ and ´Community Camping´ to Sri Lanka Tourism. These programmes were initiated to promote community-based tourism development and provide opportunities to improve the life-styles of the poor communities in tourism generating areas in Sri Lanka. According to SLEF, Community Camping and Community Ecolodges can be vital tools providing tangible alternative incomes to communities through tourism.

In recent years, SLEF has promoted Community Based Ecotourism Enterprises (CBEs) in various areas of Sri Lanka to ensure that the benefits of tourism flow back into the local communities. These benefits include income from tourists and contributions to poverty alleviation and environmental and biodiversity conservation.

Ecotourists, as noted by SLEF, are higher spenders than ¨ordinary, mass tourists¨ and are thought of as more responsible travellers with a high appreciation for nature. Such tourists can provide an attractive target market for governments looking for ways of earning foreign exchange through tourism.

However, to fully take advantage of the potential of ecotourism to bring benefits to Sri Lanka, SLEF believes that education and training of its tourism industry workers is vital.

Photograph; From left to right, Lasantha, Treasure of Walawa Nadee Ecotourism Organization, Sirisoma Edirisinghe, Chairman, Walawa Nadee Ecotourism Organization, Sanath Weerasuriya, Vice President of Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF) and Palitha Gurusinghe, President, Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation

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