Tourism is the 2nd highest net foreign exchange earner with us$ 4.5 billion earnings this year

The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka held it's 53rd Annual General Meeting on 17th October 2018 at the Shangri la hotel, Colombo. Mr. Sanath Ukwatte, the Chairman of the Mount Lavinia Group of hotels was unanimously elected for the 3rd consecutive year as it's President. Since taking over office 3 years ago, Mr. Ukwatte has played an aggressive role to address some of the challenges faced by the industry and which will impact it's future sustenance. He was the first to have an island wide program to recognize young talent within the industry and initiated the ' Rising Star' award to recognize the best of the best young talent in 09 identified disciplines in hotel operations. This was a resounding success. He also has recognized the need to create awareness amongst the youth on the opportunities available in the hospitality sector and has aggressively lobbied with the Government and donor agencies to get a nationwide campaign rolled out, has been a catalyst in lobbying with the Government to change legislature and tax structures to be more tourism friendly and of course the push for a proper destination branding and promotional campaign to be released immediately.

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The Association also known as THASL, is the apex body of the entire hotel sector in the country and for the past 53 years has played a pivotal role in supporting the industry and it's development. It's membership investment exceeds over 90% of the hospitality sector in the country. Hotels are by far the single largest investor in the entire Tourism sector with an estimated investment of over USD 10 Billion.

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The Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe was the Chief Guest at the Dinner following the AGM.

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In an emotional but bold speech supported by facts and figures, the President THASL did not hesitate to communicate what is threatening the sustainability of the Tourism industry. Whilst thanking The Prime Minister for getting the Destination Branding in place, due to be rolled out at WTM in early November, Mr. Ukwatte said that Government present and past identified Tourism as a thrust industry but was never treated that way when formulating policy. Hence, today the industry is facing many challenges including it's future existence. He was categorical is stating that the existence of the industry so far despite all the adversities is due to the passion and the commitment of the private sector and called on the Governments attention to take the industry forward.

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Tourism is a highly sensitive industry. Factors such as wars, epidemics and natural disasters, currency fluctuations in our country or source markets have a negative impact on arrivals and the business. He stated that Tourism is one of the most competitive industries in the world and competing destinations are vying for the same dollar and have so far done far better than Sri Lanka. Hence, he called on the Government to be smarter and faster in it's decision making and develop products that are suited for today's lifestyle.

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