- Sanath Nanayakkare -
The much needed innovation process of tourism products in Sri Lanka could well take a cue from backpacker tourists Sanath Ukwatte, President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) told The Island.
"Because they were the ones who discovered Ella and Arugambay as popular tourism sites, and even the train ride from Peradeniya to Ella which is undoubtedly one of the world's most scenic train journeys made famous by many Instagram postings, and today it has become a bucket list experience" he said.
"Maybe the backpackers stay at inexpensive lodging such as informal abodes and travel mostly via public transport striking out on their own on solo trips across the country. But they have trekked to discover themselves places of great interest in Sri Lanka for sight-seeing, fun and meeting locals. Today, both lower-end and high end travellers are looking for authentic experiences".
"Ella used to be a small laid-back town surrounded by beautiful greens of tea. Thanks to the backpackers, it has become so popular among the travellers today, and a city of its own," "Today Ella is receiving lot of interest worldwide and it has developed into a lucrative destination consisting of luxury hotels as well" THASL president said.
"Arugam Bay was also discovered by backpackers and surfers. It used to be a laid-back beach, and today it is known as one of the top 3 surf destinations in the world".
"I must say that local tour operators offer great conventional vacations, but it's time to reinvent our tourism product and rethink to ignite travellers' passion by offering a different experience to what they can find elsewhere"
"Sri Lanka is a land of history, uniqueness and diversity. For example; we can do a lot to popularise the cultural bubble in Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and even places in further north like Wakare since these places are easily accessible today".
"Sri Lanka was a key trade and shipping port in the ancient Silk Route from China to Europe and was a central base for Britain in World War I and World war II. Therefore, shipwrecks abound in coastal waters around the island. In Wattala there’s a Japanese aircraft which went down in 1942 during the Second World War, which is a rare site and near Colombo too you get a number of wrecks including British steamer SS Perseus sank in 1917 after hitting a German mine. So in total we have nearly 260 shipwrecks with dazzling coral reefs and rich marine life which offer a virtual a paradise for scuba divers. Sri Lanka is often referred to as the 'wreck diving capital' of Indian Ocean by diving lovers".
"The Maritime Archeology Museum in Galle is a fascinating and unique museum and we can take all demographics of visitors there to inspire, engage and educate them by showing the history of shipping around Sri Lanka over the centuries".
"These are 'amongst other things' and together we could brainstorm with marine archeologists, wildlife experts, archeologists, historians, classical, modern and contemporary artists and develop innovative products for tourists and add intense value to our existing offering".