17 March 2012

South Asia Tourism Promotion Office in Colombo. ADB Funded Project to Develop Sustainable Cross Border Tourism under South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation Program

17th March 2012, www.dailynews.lk

South Asia countries are to launch a joint tourism promotion website and a tourism coordination office to boost the marketing of natural, cultural and historic attractions across South Asia. In addition a regional promotional office funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would be set up in Colombo. The two main areas they hope to promote are Buddhism and Eco tourism.

The website and office are part of broader efforts by the countries to develop sustainable cross-border tourism under the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation program. ADB has been providing technical assistance and other support to help the countries promote and manage tourist attractions such as world-renowned and colorful Buddhist heritage sites. The Tourism Working Group member countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

“We are excited about the prospect of more active sub regional cooperation for tourism promotion by means of the new website supported by the new office, which will work closely with the private sector,”said Keiichi Tamaki, Senior Urban Development Specialist in ADB's South Asia Department.

Members of a tourism working group, set up under the SASEC program, who met in Colombo, Sri Lanka also inaugurated the new tourism coordination office based on a new regional tourism action plan for 2011 to 2015. The action plan provides a strategy for developing, promoting and managing sustainable tourist attractions, including Buddhist heritage trails, as well as activities such as Eco and adventure tourism. During the meeting, the working group held talks with ADB and private sector representatives to explore areas where cooperation on tourism could be stepped up.

According to the United Nation World Tourism Organization, in 2010, the countries comprising the South Asia Region received 11.1 million international arrivals or 5.4% of total international arrivals in the Asia Pacific region (204 million). It should be noted that South Asia arrivals do not include the large number of land-based cross border movements by residents of the South Asian countries especially between India and its neighbours.

Of the total arrivals, around 7 million or 63% visited the countries of the sub-region. Based on World Travel and Tourism Council estimates, in 2009 tourism accounted for 6% of sub-regional GDP, employed 37.2 million people and generated around US$20.8 billion in foreign exchange earnings.

“United Nations World Tourism Organization forecasts, by 2015, total international arrivals to South Asia will reach 16.5 million, up by 49% over 2010 and 21 million by 2020 up by 27% over 2015. By 2020, it is estimated that the sub-region will receive 15 million arrivals or 71% of total arrivals to South Asia”, said Additional Secretary, Ministry of Economic Development Nihal Somaweera.

“Tourism sector is one of a handful of fast growing economic sectors of the sub-regional economy that can be both sustainable while making significant contributions towards inclusive development and poverty reduction without having to move people to urban locations to find employment.

“To develop South Asia's unique Buddhist heritage, natural and other tangible and intangible heritage assets into well-developed, integrated, conserved and sustainably managed and globally branded and marketed most preferred destinations”. (SS)

Image: Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa and Country Director ADB, Rita O’ Sullivan at the launch of the website at Taj Samudra yesterday. Picture by Shirajiv Sirimane

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