Unwrapping the Real North Islands for tourism & The Real North Tourism Market Connectivity Attempt Jaffna District
The REAL Jaffna is where you will experience a grand combination of culture, agriculture, religious beliefs, beaches, attractions, unique food, and entertainment. The people of Jaffna are the symbolic representation of the real Jaffna. Their colourful culture is a combination of Hindu temples, vibrant clothes, and the smiles of the Jaffna people which represent the harmony of their community.
EFECS Tourism pilot project initiated in 2019 were able to connect all actors in the Tourism Value Chain as a tri-sectoral collaboration which connected Government Sector, Private Sector as well as the Community Sector linked as women societies and cooperative societies. Accordingly, sample community segments were identified from each district as Cultural Dancing from Delft & Kilinochchi, Palmyra Handicrafts from Mannar & Vavuniya, Traditional Clothing from Jaffna & Mullaitivu and Cashew Value Additions from Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. The identified communities were given an extensive capacity building in Business Planning, Financing, Technical Improvements and Marketing. They were further connected with the market by establishing 25 Real North Product Stores in leading hotels and tourism information centres.
Covering the largest beach belt in the province, Jaffna Ocean gives the space for a chain of beautiful Island clusters scattered in Velanai, Kayts, Karenagar and Delft Divisional Secretariats. Integrating all geo segments in North, Northern Province Tourism Bureau in collaboration with the EFECS Project developed a Sustainable Community Based Tourism Strategy centralising Delft Island in order to promote the Northern Islands.
In order to unwrap the Real North Islands for tourism & The Real North Tourism Market Connectivity Attempt, a special stakeholders meeting was organised by Northern Province Tourism Bureau on 14, October 2021 at 10.00 am in the Auditorium of Ministry of Local Government, Jaffna. All leading Hoteliers, Empowered Society Heads as well as the senior officials of the line Ministries participated for the event.
The meeting was Chaired by Mr. Saman Bandulasena, Chief Secretary of Northern Province and moderated by Mr. Stanley Mascarenhas, Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau.
“We completed the Investor Guide and the Tour Map for the Real North Islands on last 15th September 2021. Yet with the pandemic constraints, it was difficult for us to have this meeting in a large scale with the participation of all hoteliers and community members. But we are happy to see few of the key tourism stakeholdersfrom the private sector as well as community sector are gathered here today to launch this initiative.” Said Mr. Mascarenhas, Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau making the welcome address of the event. The initial copy of the Real North Islands Investor Guide and Map were presented to Mr.K.Mahesan, District Secretary / Government Agent, Jaffna District from Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau.
“Mr. K. Mahesan, District Secretary of Jaffna extended a great support towards all the tourism initiatives conducted in the North in the recent past. Specifically, he motivated the project implementors by delivering good guidance in order to achieve the outcomes collaboratively. He is a believer in integration and consistency who always advised to work as a team connecting all government, private and community together” stated Ms. Harshi Abeynayake in a post comment.
All four Divisional Secretaries governing the Island clusters in Jaffna actively participated for all preliminary steps in developing the Real Island Strategy. A copy of the investor guide and the Map were presented to the Divisional Secretariats and their representatives from the respective Divisional Secretariats. The documents were handed over by Mr. R. Varatheeswaran, Secretary, Ministry of Local Government who administrates the Northern Province Tourism Bureau in the local government who was a key pillar of success in all initiatives conducted by the Bureau.
Ms. Abeynayake, Former Tourism Value Chain Officer of EFECS presented the systematic process of developing a Tourism Value Chain Approach for a destination with the engagement of the Private, Public and Community. The complete cross-section of the pilot programme was presented for the understanding and future benefit of the stakeholders.
“EFECS is a 02-year Pilot Project to introduce A Sustainable Community based Tourism Model based on 6As Value Chain Approach. North was selected to conduct the Pilot by a Value Chain Research. This project was funded by the Global Affairs of Canada jointly implemented by Développement International Desjardins (DID) of Canada and SANASA International Pvt (Ltd) of Sri Lanka under the guidance of Northern Province Tourism Bureau.” Stated by Ms. Abeynayake introducing the project.
At the end of her presentation, she stated that without the blessings of private and cooperative community sectors as well as the guidance of the public sector, this pilot would have become a dream. She stated that the support given by the Northern Tourism Bureau Chairman and the Officials as well as the Provincial Line Ministries such as Department of Cooperatives, Department of Industries is really appreciated. “I’m grateful to the Project Director from Développement International Desjardins (DID) of Canada and Managing Director, SANASA International Pvt (Ltd) of Sri Lanka as well as for all project staff engaged with this initiative specially Mr. Viswanathan Sinthujan and Mr. Kulendran Hershanth, MDOs as well as Ms. S. Karthika, Ms. T. Saageny and Ms.Vibeeshana” stated Ms. Abeynayake.
She recalled the assistance received from the trainers from various institutes such as Palmyra Development Board, Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, Korea Lanka School of Hospitality and Hotel Management, Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, Canadian Tourism Institute, Provincial Institute of Cooperative Development, Manchanayaka Dancing Academy, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau, SANASA Campus, Vavuniya Campus, University of Ruhuna and University of Sabaragamuwa. She specially thanked Mr. P. Vageshan, former Cooperative Commissioner of Northern Province, at present the Deputy Chief Secretary (Training and Development) for his immense contribution extended with all the Assistant Cooperative Commissioners of the Province.
“When we start this pilot project in late 2019, we didn’t know anything about the Covid Pandemic. It was really challenging for me to drive this initiative since it was completely comprised with awareness building, capacity building as well as the promotions. As you all know our industry was the most affected and I’m honestly happy to conclude this project in such a way that could drive traffic to the North in Future” stated Ms. Abeynayake at the end of the presentation.
Highlighting the importance of branding and marketing, EFECS Project created 11 brand logos, slogans, and attractive brochures to connect the rurally based entrepreneurs considered in the pilot with the tourism market. The initial copies of the brochures were presented to the government stakeholders by the Former Value Chain Officer (EFECS Project), Ms. Harshi Abeynayake.
Cooperative movement of Northern Province provides living examples for a successful community collaboration. EFECS identified Jaffna District Textile Weavers Cooperative Society named as YARL CO-OP TEX to test another amenity cluster strategy in the Tourism Value Chain. With a slogan of Beauty through harmony! EFECS Project conducted various capacity building programmes for the employees of this society through recognised institutes such as Singer Fashion Academy and Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing.
Jaffna District Textile Weavers Cooperative Society was established with the objective of creating self-sufficient livelihood for women and families through home-based traditional textile weaving in the Northern Province. The Jaffna District Textile Weavers Cooperative Society Limited was founded in 1942 in order to facilitate the weavers in the Jaffna District. YARL CO-OP TEX is the brand of this society. Currently, the society provides employment to 20 villagers including 15 women while recruiting new members. The society supplies products to fulfil the clothing requirement for the hospitals in the northern province as well as a considerable amount required for the Jaffna market.
“Power loomed products are stitched with premium cloth and can be found in a plethora of colours for you to choose from. With countless designs and colourful patterns that weave absolute magic, you can take your pick from a large array of products such as sarees, sarongs, curtains, bed sheets, pillowcases, bath towels and more. Not only are they masterfully designed, but the premium cloth also used gives every garment comfort. Each one is authentic which will make you feel as if you are taking a part of the Real Jaffna with you wherever you go.”
The promotional materials and labels were handed over to the President, Jaffna District Textile Weavers Cooperative Society, Mr. Pathmanadan Raghawan by the District Secretary of Jaffna at the event.
“The Delft Island is one of the magnificent natural wonders that emerged from the deep Indian ocean in the Real North, Sri Lanka. This is also known as the Herbal Island since its full of rare medicinal plant species. The island is filled with birds and wild horses to keep the wildlife enthusiasts satisfied. This is indeed a blessed paradise with a united community living in harmony.”
Under the Activities Cluster in the Tourism Value Chain, EFECS piloted the Cultural Dancing Segment in Delft Island. Accordingly, The Cultural Troupe of Delft was trained and marketed under the theme of “Bringing Legends to Life”. They were practising traditional kuththtu style. Koothu is a symbol of heritage in the Tamil Culture which is accompanied by ‘music’ and expressions. It is a folk-art form that is a combination of science, music, and drama.
The traditional dancing style authentic for delft is called “Naattu Kuuththu” That is something like dramas including songs and dances. Mostly the legends like Ramayan, Mahawansha are played as stories based on their own scripts. These are very lengthy, not like single dancing items. Usually, some dramas running over night til the dawn in outside premises. Majority of the dancers are men. The trainings were conducted by Manchanayaka Dancing Academy in Colombo. The trained community troupes from Delft Island, Aalamavana Kalai Group, St. Anthonys Nila Jothy Drama Group, Neekilas Drama Group, Malaimakal Kalai Club and Sarawasthy Manaram were awarded at the ceremony with Certificates, attractive brochure, and business cards to connect with the hotels. The awards were given to the leaders of the traditional dancing troupes by Mr. K. Mahesan, District Secretary, Jaffna.
Not only the cultural troupes, individual artists too trained during the programme. The certificates of the individual artists were presented to the Divisional Secretary, Delft Island by Ms. Abeynayake at the event.
Accommodation sector playing a leading role in the Tourism Value Chain. As a result of the Tourism Value Chain Development Pilot, private sector was given the priority to engage with the community development activities in each district. Accordingly, the selected 25 hotels in the province were given Real North Stores to have the presence of community-based products such as Palmyra, Handlooms. Etc. In order to connect these hoteliers, a set of brochures were presented to the key hoteliers in the District those who received the Real North Product Stores. The promotional brochures were presented by Mrs. R. Varathalingum, Secretary of the Ministry of Women Affairs of Northern Province.
Apart from the MSME Trainings, EFECS conducted Digital Marketing Training programme for the government stakeholders in the Northern Province specially the officers from the District Secretariats, Cooperative Department as well as selected Divisional Secretariats. Mr. Mohanabawan, Director, Northern Province Tourism Bureau presented the certificates of the officials trained from the Jaffna District to Mr. K.Mahesan, District Secretary Jaffna and for the Cooperative Sector to the Assistant Cooperative Commissioner, Jaffna Mr. Chandrasekaran.
Gratitude is always an encouragement to start the next bigger initiative. EFECS project ran out in Northern Province since late November 2019 until September 2021 with immense challenges brought by the pandemic. Tourism sector being as one of the most affected sectors from the pandemic, conducting a pilot project coordinating with the public, private, community as well as the international donor agencies was in fact challenging. In such context, for the great achievement in managing the project for two years, Northern Province awarded the great contribution given by the Tourism Value Chain Officer of EFECS Project, Ms. Harshi Abeynayake at this ceremony.
The certificate of appreciation given by Hon. Governor, Northern Province and the appreciation plaque was presented by Mr. K. Mahesan, Government Agent Jaffna and Mr. R. Varatheeswaran, Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government.
Ms. Harshi Abeynayake is a Certified Professional Marketer who holds over 16 years’ experience in private as well as public sectors of Sri Lanka specialised in Destination Marketing and Branding. She served Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau as Assistant Director Brand Communication and later she was contributed for the Ministry of Social Empowerment. She has a greater desire in assisting the Northern Community, introducing tourism value chain approach to connect village with the cities to alleviate poverty.
Former Governor, Northern Provincial Council who guided the Tourism Value Chain Initiative connecting all responsible institutes together in the province extended her appreciations to the Project Officials through a letter of appreciation. “It has been a pleasure of knowing you and your hard work on tourism value chain development in Northern Province for two long years of service. As tourism value chain officer for EFECS project you have done a great job during your tenure working closely with Northern Tourism Bureau and stakeholders’ connection to tourism and I must admit that your scope was beyond expectations as your efforts impacted uplift SMEs standard in Northern Province. Also, I admire the Real North campaign where now we have a platform to promote northern Province tourism and its value chain through www.realnorth.lk. I would like to extend my thanks to you for the remarkable work done by you and your team and with great gratitude we sincerely hope that you will be able to support continuously for the success of Northern Province Tourism and its stakeholders. Wish you a great future ahead.” Stated by Hon. Mrs. P. S. M. Charles, Former Governor, Northern Provincial Council.
Mr. K. Mahesan, District Secretary of Jaffna made a fruitful speech on the importance of getting connected towards a collaborative effort in developing the tourism value chain. He emphasised that the tourism should not limited for one industry, and it is a mix of multi sectoral engagement. “I must admire the great guidance given by Hon. Mrs. P. S. M. Charles, Former Governor of Northern Province for such sustainable initiatives within the province to make a better future to North” stated by the Government Agent of Jaffna concluding his speech.
Mr. Varathalingam, Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government who looks after the Tourism subject in the province admired the assistance given by the EFECS project for the tourism sector for last two years and stated that all entities should get together to drive this initiative forward.
The newly appointed Chief Secretary of the Northern Province, Mr. Saman Bandulasena addressed the gathering highlighting the requirement of clear way forward for all the initiatives commenced by the project.
Specially he highlighted that His Excellency (Mr.) David MacKinnon, the High Commissioner of Canada who made a courtesy visit to the Chief Secretariat of Northern Province on 14th October 2021 impressed their great desire in assisting the Northern Province through various initiatives to uplift the social life of the community.
The Chief Secretary further stated that he will be visiting the Delft Island at the beginning of November to make a proper road map for the implementation of the proposed strategies for the Real North Islands. While thanking the good work done by the EFECS Project he invited the Value Chain Officer to continue her assistance to the province to develop the tourism sector with her expertise.
Mr. Mohanabawan, Director, Northern Province Tourism Bureau expressed his sincere gratitude for all the participants making the vote of thanks of the event.