Claude Thomasz, Chairman of the Tourist Board of the Western Province in Sri Lanka said that for every 15 tourists that arrive in Sri Lanka, one job opportunity is created in the Sri Lanka tourism industry. He had made this statement at an event to mark the successful conclusion of a program that rehabilitated and trained 300 taxi drivers in the Western Province.
Sri Lanka still has a long way to go to gain a remarkable edge in tourism if the country wants to bring in massive volume of tourists flocking to other countries in South East Asia. The country is now concentrating on more than just achieving the target of attracting 2.5 million tourists by the year 2016 but is also educating the tourism stakeholders, service personnel and those completely dependant on tourism profits.
“Once we gave the opportunity for taxi drivers to come and understand about the various cultures, the behavior and how to treat tourists, they showed a remarkable progress which led to better profits in the form of more hires and ethical standards,” said Thomasz. He stated that not only taxi drivers but they are expanding to give this training service to boatmen transporting tourists, site and area guides and vendors. He said, “Our aim is to provide all logistic assistance together with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority with the aim of providing a better standard of service.”
According to the Sri Lanka Tourism policy as stated by the Ministry of Economic Development, they have plans to increase tourism related employment from 125,000 in 2010 to 500,000 by 2016 and expand tourism based industry and services all over the island. “We are starting at the taxi drivers because they have the ability to make a tourist feel welcome or irritated. The Western Province also has the benefit of welcoming a tourist and also sending them off back home but if we don’t know how to keep them happy after they arrive here, then we should change our tourism culture among our tourism service personnel,” he said.
Till date, under the program, 300 taxi drivers have been trained but there are many others who are keen to train and take back what they learnt and turn it into practice. Thomasz concludes, “We are certifying all the taxi drivers who have qualified under our program with a special license, certificate and a wide network base so that they are equipped to deal with whatever questions and problems a tourist might have. In addition, we are also planning to teach them languages and take the program one step further by getting the taxi-drivers not only help themselves but also their friends and colleagues to take the message across.”
Written by : Kanchana Ganglani