Pic by Gihan Alwis

The SAARC Investment Forum themed as “Turning point in South Asian Tourism” organized by SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI) in collaboration with the Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sri Lanka (FCCISL) was held in Colombo from September 30 to October 2.

The inaugural session which was held at the Ramada Hotel, Colombo was attended by Minister of Tourism, John Amaratunga, Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva, Enterprise Development Deputy Minister, Eran Wickramaratne and Tourism Ministers from the SAARC countries as well as the Diplomatic Missions Heads of the SAARC countries.
Three-day event had been arranged with several sessions with participation of the experts and the persons who engage in the tourism and hospitality industry with the policy makers of the SAARC countries. FCCISL officials said that the event was 100percent successful and they identified a lot issues as well as the solutions to overcome those.

The various sessions concluded in last three days have identified solutions such as to set up a SAARC secretariat, to set up a SAARC council representing all SAARC nations, promotion of a common language in the SAARC region, use sports as a vehicle to strengthen relationships among SAARC nations, Encourage women employment in the hospitality sector, Introduction of online visa facilitation in SAARC nations, Introduction of specialized diplomas and degrees for hospitality management with international accreditation, Setting up of a SAARC tourism trade board, Usage of social media to promote SAARC tourism,  Organize annual SAARC tourism marts/ promotion fairs, looking for special hotel rates for tourists of SAARC national and many other issues.

They also said they prepared the Colombo Declaration on Tourism and Hospitality Industry ,including all those findings at the sessions and already handed over to the Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake and Petroleum & Petroleum Gas Minister Chandima Weerakkody. The participants from the SAARC nations will also handover the documents their respective policy makers.