Mr. Paddy Withana, who was the former chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and Acting Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has been Appointed to spearhead the tourism taskforce under the patronage of Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe. Mr. Withana also has been appointed as an advisor to the Ministry of Policy Planning and Economic Development. As the executive Director of the Task Force, He has been entrusted with the responsibility of implementing a Sri Lankan Tourism Strategic plan for 2017-2020. Thus, he will report the progress of key projects,to the Hon. Prime Minister. His new role is based on monitoring how Tourism Strategic Plans (TSP)s are handled by the Tourism Agencies.
The principal objectives of the Tourism Task force are to make Sri Lanka a leading travel destination and to make the tourism industry a major contributor to national development, to prepare initiatives projects and programmes to give effect to the Tourism Vision and Strategic plan, (TVS)to lead implementation of prioritized initiatives, projects and programmes to in line with the TVS for a period of three years, to coordinate and direct the government ,provincial agencies and Local Authorities related to the tourism sector , to report monthly matters to the tourism minister and Cabinet Committee for Economic management. Tourism Task Force to achieve these objectives, the work of the Tourism Task Force, (TTF) will be supported by an Executive Director and a Secretariat –both reporting to the Chairman of the TTF and based at Temple Trees.
In monitoring this important process as the Executive Director, Mr. Withana will represent the TTF, as and when required and as per TTF instructions, in government forums to ensure tourism issues are considered in decision-making. He will participate in an advisory capacity in this regard, as per TTF requirements. He will provide support for specific initiatives as directed by the TTF. He will also function as a mentor and liaison to provincial tourism councils with the intention to uplift regional tourism.
The main purpose of the Tourism Strategic plan is to implement a transformation of the Tourism Industry in Sri Lanka to make it competitive in the global Travel Market place. The TSP also includes actions and implementation mechanism for the next four years, with a long-term view toward Tourism Vision 2025 and achieving the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals. Its vision is to be recognized as the world’s finest island for memorable, authentic and diverse experiences. As a compact island enriched with amazing cultural heritage and natural resources, Sri Lanka is an ideal travel destination for those who love to explore nature’s wonders and have a holiday worth their expenditure.
Thus a fruitful strategic plan has to be established and in order to make this plan successful, the Tourism sector has to be developed into greater heights with rational thinking with a well-planned schedule. In this year’s strategic plan, Sri Lanka Tourism ‘s main focus is on the people, places, heritage, and values of the country. Tourism can promote a sense of place and belonging and a voice for every community and it should be used as an income generator to protect, conserve and enhance Sri Lanka’s natural environment as well as the tangible and intangible cultural and historic assets. In Sri Lanka, tourism is the third largest export earner in the economy, after remittances and textiles and garments.
The 4-year strategic plan comprises of improving institutional performance, governance and regulations identify transformative project opportunities and signature tourism experiences, improving workforce and stakeholder engagement and improving communication across the marketing channel.
Mr. Withana , who has over 40 years of experience in the leisure and tourism sector specializing in hotel property development, management, and financial controls ,was a Director of John Keells Hotels overseeing all the food and beverage aspects of its hotels in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. He also served as CEO of Carson Cumberbatch Hotels in Sri Lanka where he was able to convert a loss making property into a highly profitable business. His public sector experience includes serving as the Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism from 2002 – 2004 where he initiated the development of a new national tourism policy for Sri Lanka. Since February 2015 he has been serving as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau which is the apex body responsible for the national tourism policy. In his capacity as Chairman, he has been a strong advocate of sustainable tourism in the island. Thus his expertise and experience in the Tourism industry will be an asset to the growth of the industry and enable it to be increased to a higher level.
Mr. Withana also expressed his sincere thanks to all those who have supported him in and outside the travel and tourism industry, all tourism and travel stake holders, local and international counterparts and all those who helped to bring Sri Lanka’s tourism sector to its highest peak and to continue the support in making tourism in Sri Lanka glowing success.