This year, World Tourism Day focuses on tourism and rural development, two areas that are significantly interlinked. Here in Sri Lanka, we have a wide variety of case studies of how tourism has been the primary driver of hyper-local economies. The development of a single hotel in a small village and its economic impact has been showcased here on our small island on a regular basis.
In Hatton, while Ceylon Tea Trails was one of the first luxury boutique hotels, we have seen a number of other accommodation options open up since then. Along with this, a strong tourism economy has been created. In Weligama, a variety of service providers have entered the industry due to the reduced barriers to entry. Surf schools, cafes, surfing instructors, tuk-tuk drivers, boat operators, and many others are all part of this community that is dependent on tourism. In Yala, jeep drivers, trackers, naturalists, guides, and others form this group. While the composition of the stakeholders change, the development of these economies is a common thread, not just in our three locations, but in similar locations across our beautiful island.
Tourism has always been a force for good, and it is imperative that we recognize the impact of this industry. In 2019, the tourism industry, directly and indirectly, accounted for US$8.9 trillion, 10.9% of the global GDP, and 330 million jobs (~1 in 10 individuals). These numbers highlight how tourism has played a pivotal role in the development of rural communities and how it will continue to do so. The industry is also closely tied to the sustainable development goals. While 2020 has exposed the fragile relationship between nature and humanity, this pandemic has truly challenged the depth of the reserves of resilience within all players of the industry. The industry has seen a significant number of losses, and rural development has been severely hampered by this.
Despite these challenging circumstances, we hope that this World Tourism Day, all stakeholders remember their responsibility as guardians of our surroundings. At Resplendent Ceylon, we take this responsibility to heart. All our ambassadors are focused on protecting and enhancing the biodiversity we have around us through a variety of measures and our social impact initiatives that are in development.
Firstly, your journey with Resplendent Ceylon as you traverse through the different regions of the country focuses on the experiential aspect of tourism. By incorporating such experiences, such as stopping at the Mankada pottery workshop, on the way from Tea Trails and Wild Coast, rural economies are empowered. Mankada is a pottery center funded by the MJF Charitable foundation, that provides a lifeline to an entire community of women living in relative poverty by showcasing and selling the products that they make. Each of the experiences at all three resorts also ensure that community involvement is incorporated into the consumer journey.
Secondly, we have also shifted from merely focusing on sustainability to a larger approach of regeneration through several initiatives such as reforestation with the goal of having a net-positive impact on our community. The team has used the lockdown period to analyze every aspect of carbon output and reduce it at every possible point and are now moving on to strengthen our social impact projects.
Thirdly, the economy created through such an approach has opened up a number of non-traditional job roles. Individuals who were earlier in more regimented roles with boundaries have now transformed into curators of experiences. This is a significant value addition to the individual, the company and the surrounding community as well.
Recent collaborations such as the commencement of a leopard conservation center in Yala, along with a number of other community-driven initiatives together with the MJF Foundation and Dilmah Conservation are all part of this effort to ensure that we have a net positive impact on our communities. Just as Dilmah paved the way in terms of creating value in a competitive tea market, Resplendent Ceylon continues with that same mindset of a value-driven approach. We continue our commitment to the idea that “Business is a matter of human service” and we hope to improve these efforts to have a more lasting and meaningful impact on our environment and our communities.