Tourist hotel operators in the East have called on the government to upgrade transportation facilities as a move to cut down travel time for tourists and potential investors who travel from other parts of the country to the Province in order to increase repeat customers to the region. Post war, the Eastern Province received a considerable level of exposure owing to its exotic natural beauty and the beaches, resulting in international and domestic tourists. However, tourist hotel operators in the region say that they could attract more if the necessary infrastructure facilities are put in place.
President, Arugam Bay Tourist Hotels Association, M.H.A. Raheem told The Nation Gain that even though the post-war environment had increased tourist arrivals to the area, and to the East in general, the amount of time spent on the road to reach the destination had resulted in reduction of repeat customers.
Arugam Bay has been known to be a hot tourist spot in the East and attracts tourists and surfing enthusiasts.
“If the government or the authorities introduce sea plane services or such mode of transport, it would help tourists as well as people like us to improve,” he said. “What the tourists feel is that it would be better for them to travel to the South or to the hill country, which is much closer to Colombo rather than wasting too much time on the road to travel to Trincomalee or Arugam Bay,” he added.
Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Hafiz Naseer during a recent event stated that the Government needed to look at developing infrastructure facilities if the East was to be developed as a tourist destination.
Speaking to The Nation Gain, Naseer stated that the Eastern Province hotels and tour operators were losing out on repeat customers owing to several factors, including the distance and time needed to travel on road from the Western Province.
“Even those who wish to invest in the East would have to waste time traveling from Colombo to the East, which would discourage investors,” he added.
He urged the Government and tourism authorities to initiate special sea plane services that would cut down travel time of tourists. “I have also suggested the government to develop the Trincomalee airport to allow direct flight from countries in the Asian and East Asian region. “We want an airport which can accommodate a limited number of international arrivals as that would be sufficient to attract foreign tourists directly to the East,” Naseer said.
When contacted, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) admitted that it did not have a plan laid out to introduce new plans to address transportation aspects to the region. “We will facilitate such moves. We encourage our tour operators to travel to world travel marts and exhibitions to come up with innovative ideas,” an official added.