Lanka's battlefield opens up with homestays

Economics of tourism

For 30 years, Sri Lanka, torn by civil war, was left “untouched” and “under developed” to promote tourism.

Two years on, after the end of the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan government has now opened up its most “pristine” nature spots located in the northern parts of its country for tourism. As part of its possible “reconciliatory” measures, trying to spur economic growth for the Tamil-speaking population, the island nation has decided to convert the homes in Jaffna, Mulathivu, Vavuniya and other locations as homestays.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Director-General for the Tourism Development Authority, Vipula Wanigasekara, said that their government is already looking at this model to provide more “impetus” to the economic growth in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. “A large number of houses have been turned into guest houses, with approval from the Board, which will derive a lot of revenue for the people in the North with increasing visitation by both local and foreign tourists,” he said.

One of the prime reasons attributed to the conversion of the houses into guest houses in the north of Sri Lanka has been the lack of private investments in the region on account of the region being under LTTE control for almost three decades. But with the end of the war, it is learnt that investments are being made in the region to set up resorts and hotels for tourists. “We are expecting three large properties in the northern parts of our country in the next couple of years,” said Wanigasekara.

With air, road and rail connectivity completely cut off, the northern parts of Sri Lanka have been, for the longest time, isolated from the rest of the island. However, in the past two years, the Lankan government claims to have made efforts to provide additional infrastructure for integrating the region with other parts of the island.

“The Railway track has already moved close to Jaffna. This is progressing day by day. The government has expedited the restoration of railway track and the stations in the northern parts. Naturally, the Jaffna station will be one of the best railway stations when the trains start operating. This would be a major transportation mode restoring the old memories back with more modernisation,” said Wanigasekara.

For air transport, currently under military control, Colombo has already made plans to reopen and “upgrade” the Palali, China Bay and Kalpitiay airports in the east and north of their country, in the coming years.

In addition, the Lankan government is also planning to utilise the long sea coast along the northern parts by introducing sea planes to ferry tourists to these areas. “These developments will ultimately resolve the air connectivity problems in the north,” said the official.

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