Business Times

Draft Tourism Act tilts balance of power, focus

The new Tourism Act is likely to witness a change in focus and the private sector losing its clout in the booming industry’s growth. An industry source told the Business Times that under the Tourism Act of 2005 the industry had requested for certain elements to be given greater attention – in particular the percentage of funds given for promotion, a specialized board with a separate Chief Executive Officer (CEO), backed by a strategic plan and run independently.

However, this is likely to change with the new Sri Lanka Tourism Authority Act that has stated as its objective – to develop Sri Lanka as a quality tourist and travel destination; work towards development of tourism and travel sectors; encourage persons or bodies of persons in the private sector to participate in the promotion of the tourism industry and promotional and training activities; promote Sri Lanka as a venue for MICE tourism; and affiliate with obtaining membership, agreements with organizations or associations and promote MICE tourism; and lastly market and promote Sri Lanka as a centre of excellence in tourism management and development.

While the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) and the Sri Lanka Tourism Authority (SLTA) would be the only bodies remaining, the two other current entities of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau will be amalgamated within the SLTA.
The change in focus would also result in a tilt in the balance of power where although there would be private sector participation at the board level of the SLTA, the minister would be given wide powers under the new Act.

Industry sources said that it is likely that there would be increased influence by the public sector. In fact the draft copy of the new Tourism Act states that the policy direction would be solely determined by the minister.

However, while the 2005 Act does provide wide powers to the minister allowing him to override any decisions taken by the board, this has not been done, sources said adding that the private sector is currently represented in four separate boards.

On the other hand, the new draft Act states that under section 19 the Minister will “issue policy directions and the Authority to comply with such directions.” Further, sub section (1) states that any general or specific policy directions may be issued by the minister to the authority in relation to the exercise, performance and discharge by the authority of its powers, functions and duties.

Sources said that while under the 2005 Act the industry was virtually “left alone” the new one is likely to ensure more public sector involvement and that “it won’t be as good as the original one.”

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