Local travellers visiting sites of historic interest in the hill country, mid-regions or just to relax on the the beaches would soon be able to use affordable holiday bungalows for accommodation.
Sri Lanka Tourism is preparing a comprehensive plan for accommodation for domestic tourists in collaboration with the Central Bank, with the formation of a state-owned company being considered to market and promote a new form of accommodation. One of main options is in transforming hundreds of circuit bungalows owned by a string of state agencies across the island which would be turned into productive and affordable accommodation for thousands of local travellers, according to Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Nalaka Godahewa.
Dr Godahewa said state bungalows (often used only during weekends) spread out across the country would be transformed into clean and affordable lodgings.
The Central Bank is also doing a survey of what its Governor Ajit Nivard Cabraal says is the ‘existence of well over 2,500 rooms’ in these bungalows in 25 districts around Sri Lanka.
“We are doing a survey of the number of rooms, the type of bungalows, the kind of renovation needed and possible costs. Some of these bungalows have eight to 10 rooms each,” he told the Business Times, adding that “some have gone to rack and ruin, and used sparingly.”
During a luncheon meeting with journalists last week, Dr Godahewa explained the measures being taken by the authorities to cater to an increasing number of tourists with arrivals next year targeted at 700,000.
Last week, the country recorded its 600,000th tourist surpassing the target of 580,000 for 2010.
He said while Thailand, Malaysia and India are Sri Lanka’s main competitors, the local advantage is that all the sights here could be seen in just eight days. “You definitely have to spend more time and days in other destinations while in India, it would take weeks or months to tour the country.”
Dr Godahewa said Asians stay a shorter period while Europeans stay longer which means that even if Indians account for the highest number of tourists, visitors from Europe make up for longer-stay durations. With the country gearing towards 2.5 million arrivals in 2016, the authorities need to substantially raise the number of rooms from a current 15,720 in addition to another 5,000 unregistered guest houses, he says.
With the changes in the tourism product, Sri Lanka is hoping for the mass market tourist spending to increase to $130 per night from a current $80 per night, Dr Godahewa said.