- Only 50% of tourist establishments registered under SLTDA
- Stern action to be taken against those not complying with regulations
- Sets up countrywide committees to expedite data collection process
By Charumini de Silva
The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) yesterday confirmed that it has launched an Enforcement Unit to take action against tourist establishments not registered with the Authority, in a sweeping effort to regulate the informal tourist operators and bring service levels to international standards and implement a policy that has been in the pipeline for many years.
“The Enforcement Unit under the Legal Department is now in operation. It is now mandatory that all tourist establishments register with SLTDA and receive a license to operate,” SLTDA Director General Malraj Kiriella told Daily FT.
According to Kiriella, only 50% of all tourist places in the country are registered with the SLTDA, making it harder for the Authority to monitor whether these establishments are up to standard and in accordance with SLTDA regulations.
Kiriella said the unit will register all the hotels in the Western Province, particularly in the Colombo City limits in the initial stage and gradually cover the whole island. In addition, the Authority has given directions to setup countrywide committees to expedite the data collection process and submit a full report covering each area to the Enforcement Unit.
Based on an Airport Survey conducted last year, a majority of the travellers that visited Sri Lanka had preferred to stay in the formal sector of hotels. According to the survey, 57% tourists have chosen hotels, while 30% in guest houses, 7% in home stays, 3% with friends and relatives, 2% in apartments and 1% other.
A major roadblock in implementing regulations, according to the Director General, is the absence of accurate data on unregistered hotels as it is not mandatory to register under the SLTDA. “Going by information we have from online sites as well as data collected from Pradeshiya Sabha, there are over 4,000 units out of which nearly 2,000 have registered with the Sri Lanka Tourist Board. These are not hotels, but mostly inns, lodges and home-stay units,” he explained.
While many entities in the tourist populated areas including the Southern Province, the Central Province and the Cultural Triangle have been absorbed to the formal sector, there are about 50% tourist establishments in the process of fulfilling the documentary requirements.
“Now that the Enforcement Unit is in operation, those who aren’t complying with the regulations will be taken into task,” he added.
Noting that SLTDA recently launched its Online Tourism Business Licensing System (OTBLS) to ease the facilitation of tourism business licence issuance and renewal processes, Kiriella said this service will enable classified tourist hotels, boutique hotels, boutique villas, tourist hotels, guest houses, restaurants, travel agencies, spa and wellness centers, rented apartments, heritage bungalows, rented homes, bungalows, heritage homes, home stay units, tourist shops, spice gardens, tourist guides and water based adventure sport centres to register without difficulty.