Real Vavuniya Market Connectivity Attempt

The Real North Tourism Market Connectivity Attempt Vavuniya District

Vavuniya is a unique place, being the transition district joining the Northern Province to the rest of Sri Lanka. As such, it’s a place steeped in culture with a lot of locals also knowing all three languages. The people of Vavuniya are very industrious and make the most of the available natural resources. By doing so they avoid the use of plastic in the majority of their household items and some wearable items as well. It is also refreshing to note that the locals are extremely environmentally conscious and have predominantly stuck to their traditional means of harvesting and working with palmyra.

As per the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Tourism refers to the activity of visitors. When the definition stands as it is, people still limit tourism to a hotel, or a travel agency may be for a van or bus carrying the tourists. Understanding the lack of knowledge on the Tourism Value Chain, a 02-year pilot project was implemented focussing on five districts of Northern Province from 2019 October to 2021 October. The pilot 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.

Among the communities selected from various segments of the value chain, two societies from Vavuniya District specialises in Palmyra Handicrafts were selected to connect with the tourism market in future. After providing an extensive capacity building programme, a new product line was introduced to the market with the engagement of Palmyra Development Board. They were further connected with the market by establishing 25 Real North Product Stores in leading hotels and tourism information centres.

Considering the Real North Tourism Market Connectivity Attempt, a special stakeholders meeting was organised by Northern Province Tourism Bureau on 12, October 2021 at 10.00 am in the Auditorium of District Secretariat, Vavuniya. All private and public sector stakeholders including hoteliers and cooperatives as well as the senior officials of the district participated for the event.

The meeting was Chaired by Mr P.A. Sarathchandra, District Secretary, Vavuniya and moderated by Mr. Stanley Mascarenhas, Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau.

“EFECS is a pilot project that was able to introduce a sustainable community driven tourism value chain model for the Northern Province. This initiative was supported by the Northern Province Tourism Bureau with the involvement of all private and public sector stakeholders in Tourism. It is in fact a great achievement of concluding the pilot with a market connectivity attempt in such a challenging situation due to the pandemic” Said Mr. Mascarenhas, Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau making the welcome address of the event.

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.

“In2019 when I was presenting the Key Findings of the Tourism Value Chain Analysis conducted in four districts of Sri Lanka, It showed that the Northern Province is really good in Attractions but very poor with Accessibility and Awareness. Rest of the elements of the tourism value chain Activities, Amenities and Accommodations were in an average status. Not even the Vavuniya Residents knew how many tourism attractions to explore in Vavuniya, what is unique to purchase in Vavuniya. Today, I’m so happy to introduce the unique products, unique activities as well as an improved awareness about Vavuniya through this two years successful pilot project” said Ms. Harshi Abeynayake, speaking at the meeting.

“I’m extremely grateful to the Former District Secretary, Vavuniya, who always encouraged the project to do better in terms of bringing a quality outcome. I hope the newly appointed District Secretary too will be able to drive these initiatives with the NPTB. Also, the resource persons from Palmyra Development Board and Singer Fashion Academy lead by Mrs. Kanchana Perera were

immensely dedicated in training the community. I specially remind the contributions obtained from the trainers from the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, Mr. Prashanthan and Mr. Sharanyan Sharma for giving their immense contributions to improve the capacity of the people” stated Ms Abeynayake. “I’m presenting my heartfelt gratitude for my team Mr. Viswanathan Sinthujan and Mr. Kulendran Hershanth, MDOs as well as Ms. S. Karthika, Ms. T. Saageny, Ms. Vibeeshana and Ms. Raghawee for assisting me throughout this initiative” expressed by Ms. Abeynayake concluding her presentation.

All empowered societies were given an attractive brand logo, slogan as well as a brochure to market their products. Specially a set of attractive brand labels to tag with their products were given. The initial copies of the brochures were presented to the government stakeholders by the Former Value Chain Officer (EFECS Project), Ms. Harshi Abeynayake.

Mrs.Thenmoli Maheswaran, District Officer (DRDO)- Vavuniya

Highlighting the importance of developing the Palmyra Handicraft Sector as an Environmentally Friendly as well as cultural product unique for North, Aatral Arasi Palmyra Handicrafts Society which is a women society in Vavuniya empowered through the pilot programme.

“Vavuniya, also known as the transition district between the Northern Province and the rest of Sri Lanka, is home to an extremely eco-conscious and hardworking people. Being a transition district also has its impact on the local culture. Most residents of Vavuniya speak all three major local languages. You can see this cultural influence in the goods created there, most notably in the palmyra handicrafts. Palmyra is an extremely versatile plant and can be found almost all over Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. It is most likely for this very reason that the people of Vavuniya became so well versed in creating such a variety of different products from its leaves.”

The Aatral Arasi is a women’s society consisting of 6 women hailing from the district of Vavuniya. The objective of the society is to empower local women by assisting them to create a wide verity of handicrafts made from palmyra. While making their way into households all over the Northern Province, the products marketed by the Aatral Arasi are being used by a number of other service industries.

Under the theme of “Handicraft Treasures of Ceylon” an attractive logo as well as a set of marketing materials were developed by the project for the society.

The Materials were handed over by the District Secretary, Vavuniya to Ms. Luisa, President of the Society

Nedunkeny Palmyra Development Society is one of the leading cooperatives in Vavuniya who is currently exporting their products to various countries. Mathiyamadu Palmyra Society is an associated society in Madiyamadu Village.

Nestled 290km away from the capital city of Colombo rests a beautiful little village called Madiyamadu in the Vavuniya District, in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province. The people of Madiyamadu have a rich history rooted in nature. They coexist with it and depend heavily on agriculture to sustain their livelihoods. They are especially gifted when it comes to working with palmyra, one of the most abundant plants found in the Northern Province.

The Madiyamadu Palmyra Society is a collective of 16 highly talented women from the village who specialise in the Palmyra handicraft industry. The women of the village have a knack for creating a variety of colourful and artistic creations rooted in tradition but inspired by modern needs. The Palmyra leaf is the primary material used for the creation of handmade shopping bags, boxes, and containers. They also specialise in making a variety of other household and wearable items including table mats, laundry baskets, slippers, and hats. Given the sheer variety and consistent high quality of the products, a number of service industries are frequent patrons of the Madiyamadu Palmyra Society.

Completely avoiding the use of plastics and polyethene coupled with an eco-conscious approach to harvesting the Palmyra makes every product in the collection environmentally friendly and gives the space it fills a whole new look and aesthetic. Fits perfectly in almost any bedroom, bathroom, and dining room.

With the tagline, “Putting Our World First”, Project presented an attractive marketing material set including brochures, business cards and labels to the society to promote their products well in the markets.

The set of materials were presented to the General Manager, Nedunkeny Palmyra Development Society by the Additional District Secretary of Vavuniya.

An extensive training series were carried out focussing on the cooperative and district secretariat ICT Officers on web development, social media, and digital marketing. The Programme was conducted by Renowned Trainer, Mr. Sharanyan Sharma, Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing. The certificates of the representatives were handed over to the Assistant Cooperative Commissioner of Vavuniya by Ms.Abeynayake at the programme.

Accommodation sector plays a leading role in the tourism value chain. Provided with quality accommodation becomes a reason for the tourist satisfaction as well as to create a repeat traveller.

A set of market connectivity brochures were handed over to Mr. T.Umashankar, Manager, Hotel Oviya by the District Secretary, Vavuniya.

Hotel Oviya is one of the leading hotels in Vavuniya providing quality accommodations for the tourists as well as locals through an experienced and dedicated staff. Hotel Oviya was interested in assisting the local community and one of the Real North Stores were established at the Hotel premises.

“Vavuniya is a destination bordering to number of strategic tourism hubs. A traveller visiting Kalpitiya or Wilpaththu National Park from the North-western, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa or Seegiriya from the Central, Trincomalee or Batticaloa from Eastern could simply reach vavuniya. I see a huge potential for tourism in Vavuniya and I’m happy to see a lot of initiatives have been activated by the Northern Province Tourism Bureau in collaboration with EFECS Project” said Mr.Sarathchandra, District Secretary / Government Agent of Vavuniya addressing the forum.