Tourism growth in the future will come and be led by the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, according to Lakshman Ratnapala, a global tourism expert. Speaking with the Sri Lankan newspaper Business Times, Mr. Ratnapala’s offers the following insights.

The economies of the advanced countries will grow at 2.7% this year whereas the emerging countries will grow much faster, at an accelerated speed of 7.2%, according to forecasts. This is a 2-speed global economy.

Tourism is an international activity – not a national activity. This is a global industry – we can’t think nationally. If we do so then it is like domestic tourism. We are attracting tourists from overseas. So we have to look at the globe and see what attracts people to our country. We need a wider and broader vision whether we think in terms of product development or whether we think in terms of hotel development.

Unless we are aware of global trends, the planners cannot make the right decisions.

“We must take control of our development not allow development to control us. Tourism can be a disaster – a double edged sword. It can help us if channelled in the right direction. It can also cut us, hurt us and kill us if sent in the wrong direction. It’s like fire. Fire is a good servant, it will help you cook your meals, etc but if you let fire be the master then the fire will burn you,” he said. Mr Ratnapala says Sri Lankan authorities should be the masters of tourism and not let tourism be their masters. “It should be our servant,” he adds, pointing out also the importance of all benefits from tourism percolating down to the people of the country.

Mr Ratnapala says tourism has to be planned – otherwise there would be cultural degradation, natural degradation and human degradation. “We need sustainable development in terms of the carrying capacity.”

“If the poor cannot be made richer by tourism, then we will all be poorer (by it). Tourism is not for the five-star people. It’s for the ordinary people. They should be part of this process. People must be able to sell their products, their handicraft, get jobs. People should benefit whether it’s the taxi driver who takes the tourists, whether it’s the papaya grower who sells to the hotel, whether it’s the room maid or the manager.”

Lakshman Ratnapala, a one-time Lankadeepa journalist in the 1950s, is Emeritus President and CEO of Bangkok-based PATA (Pacific Area Trade Assocation). Mr. Ratnapala is a Sri Lankan, currently living in San Francisco, USA. He runs Enelar International, a global tourism management consultancy and is President of the Foreign Travel Club of San Francisco.

farmer working at dawn

Sri Lankan rice farmer preparing soil for new rice crop. source: