Report on The Community Workshop on Developing a Sustainable Community Based Tourism Strategic Plan for Northern Islands Centralizing Delft

With  the  objective  of  identifying  the  tourism  potentials,  specific  issues,  and  challenges  in development  of  sustainable  communities  for  future  tourism  while  focusing  on  SDGs,  Northern Province  Tourism  Bureau  successfully  conducted  a  community  workshop  on  Developing  a Sustainable Community Based Tourism Strategic Plan for Northern Islands Centralizing Delft using the technique of participatory mapping with 38 participants.

The workshop was organized with the assistance of EFECS Project, A cooperation project funded by Global Affairs Canada and jointly implemented by SANASA International and Development international Desjardins (DID), under the guidance of the Divisional Secretary of Delft Island.

The  existing  global  pandemic  has  put  millions  of  people’s  employments  into  a  great  difficulty. Tourism  is  one  of  the  sectors  affected  mostly  from  the  pandemic.  Now  the  global  vaccination programme has started up and the risk is getting lower compared with the previous year with the community awareness. When the tourists previously preferred “Beautiful Destinations” to Visit but today, tourists are dreaming about the “Safest Destination” to spend their holiday with peace of mind. Island Destinations are becoming comparatively popular in this case as the Travelers could stay safer and enjoy the nature, culture, and beach.

Northern Province of Sri Lanka will have lots of fortunes in future tourism as it has been gifted with

37 Islands including 7 Islands in Mannar, 7 islands in Kilinochchi and 23 Islands in Jaffna.

Among  the  largest  islands  such  as  Kytes,  Karaitivu,  Pungudutivu,  Mandativu,  Delft  Island  is extraordinary with its highlighted strategic location in the Indian Ocean as well as the gifted eco system and unrevealed heritage and culture. Looking at the future opportunities of tourism, Northern Province Tourism Bureau planned to develop a sustainable community-based tourism development plan to draw the road map for tourism stakeholders as well as creating an attractive tourist route covering these amazing  island network  of  northern  province would  uplift the industry into  new heights in the post pandemic rejuvenation.

“Even though Delft has more potentials to become an attractive tourism hotspot, it is still  struggling  to  drop  into  the  path  of tourism.  Thus,  a  tourism  strategic  plan  is very  much  needed”  mentioned  Divisional Secretary, Delft Island in his welcome speech.

The keynote speech was delivered by Mr. Stanley Mascarenhas highlighting the importance of a sustainable community-based plan for the island network in northern province. He expressed his gratitude for the EFECS Project which is a Canadian government funded project for providing the required financial facilitation.

The workshop was focusing on two key requirements as to identify the key tourist attractions and activities within the Island as well as to identify the possible ones that can be further developed for tourism  and  to  understand  the  Challenges  and  Opportunities  in  development  of  the  Island. Participatory Mapping is a globally accepted method of initiating a good strategic plan because the sustainability is always dependent on the cooperation.

The participants represented various clusters in the tourism value chain such as SMEs based on various attractions such as Fishing, Farming or Toddy Tapping, Transportation providers like jeeps, busses, passenger ferries, accommodations like hotels, guest houses, homestays, Handicraft making, tailoring, Ayurvedic treatments, cultural dancing. Not only that there were surfers, swimmers, horse riders like activity-based professionals as well as tour guides are participated the programme.

“As recently announced by UNWTO and other industry experts, future tourism will be shifted from the  traditional  tourism  themes  to  various  other  avenues.  Since  the  personalized  travel  will  be prioritized, travel modes will be focusing on charted flights, yachting, cruise lines. Similarly, the travel destinations will be mostly for the islands and personalized bungalows…etc. Identifying the future trends of tourism, Northern Province is receiving inquiries from lots of investors looking at island-based accommodations, transport services and other development projects based on tourism.” said  Mr.  Mascarenhas,  Chairman  of  Northern  Province  Tourism  Bureau  addressing  the  first community workshop organized in the delft island.

All  tourism  value  chain  members  together participated the mapping exercise actively to develop the best suitable community approach for   future   tourism   at   this   workshop.   The concept    presentation    was    conducted    by professional    town    planners    namely    Ms. Veneka Logenthiran and Ms. Lashika Sabesan who  are  graduated  from  the  Department  of Town and Country Planning in the University of Moratuwa.

The 6A’s approach of the value chain model was explained to the Micro, Small and Medium scale entrepreneurs (MSME’s) of Delft Island. The participants represented each category (attractions, accessibility, amenities, accommodation, activities and awareness).

“All  sectors  of  the  tourism  value  chain  are equally important to drive a community-based project” stated Ms. Logenthiran explaining the key clusters of tourism clusters.

Ms. Sabesan  explaining the 8 themes of Sri Lanka  Tourism  Attractions  namely wildlife, heritage,  culture,  bliss,  adventure,  festivals and pristine and scenic.

A comprehensive plan with a tourist map is expected to be completed in the Month of September with the participation of all stakeholders connected to the Island Network under the supervision of Chairman, Northern Province Tourism Bureau.

Northern  Province  Tourism  Bureau  offered  a  set  of  district-based  maps  developed  by  EFECS Project as a community service to promote the rural set ups in Northern Province.

In the morning session, the participants were requested to point out the existing locations of each category in a map prepared by the town planners to identify the attractions and activities.

Community proposed suitable locations for future activities based on their expertise areas such as accommodation, transport, amenities…etc. Accordingly, few mini harbors, bird watching places, hangout  places,  boat  safari  and  horse  riding  were  proposed  and  taken  into  consideration  in developing the sustainable plan.

SMEs participating in the mapping exercise at the workshop under the supervision of town planners.

In the evening session, the participants were requested to present the issues, challenges as well as the potentials for  the tourism development related to each SME  category.  Specific  groups were created for the discussion and finally the list of challenges and opportunities were presented by each group to the audience.

Each and every participant was actively participating for both sessions and provided their valuable ideas.  Finally,  vote  of  thanks  was  given  by  the  project  coordinator.  The  support  given  by  the Divisional Secretary of Delft Mr. Sathiyasothi was highly appreciated.  The participation of Ms. Harshi Abeynayake, Value Chain Officer Tourism, EFECS project was highly appreciated with her guidance and support throughout the arrangements and organization of the 1st  workshop.