Report on The Validation Workshop with Government Stakeholders on Developing a Sustainable Community based Tourism Strategic Plan for Northern Islands Centralizing Delft

17th  August 2021 at Northern Province Tourism Bureau, Jaffna from 9.30am – 12.00p

With the objective to of validating the draft Vision, Goals & Objectives for the Northern Islands Centralizing  Delft  and  sustainable  community-based  tourism  strategic  plan  covering  the  key attractions  and  activities  based  on  the  tourism  development  clusters  (6As),  Northern  Province Tourism  Bureau  successfully  conducted  the  validation  workshop  on  Developing  a  Sustainable Community  Based  Tourism  Strategic  Plan  for  Northern  Islands  Centralizing  Delft  with  the participation of essential government stakeholders related to the islands on 17th August 2021 at the Conference Hall of Northern Province Tourism Bureau, Jaffna.

Although it was planned to invite the officials related to tourism from all line ministries, due to the recent announcements of the Ministry of Health, Northern Province Tourism Bureau conducted this activity with minimal number of participants. Yet, it was given the opportunity to join the participants from the other districts via zoom.

The  “Real  North”  concept  was  brought  over  as  a  result  of  recent  Tourism  Value  Chain Development Programme named EFECS which focussed on Value Chain based development of Micro, Small and Medium Entrepreneurs. Project introduced various community-based initiatives to improve the livelihood of people connected with the tourism industry.

Understanding  the  importance  of  attracting  more  local  and  international  tourists  in  the  post pandemic situation, the  project developed  a fully fledged  promotion via  online connecting the markets. There were five route maps as well as five community based sustainable tourism plans were developed for all five districts of the province. As the final phase, the project is now ready to release the final geo-based tourism routes for The Real North Islands inviting the tourists to feel the  Island  Experience  as  well  as  the  investors  to  spend  their  money  on  various  business opportunities.

That  is  a  cooperation  project  funded  by  Global  Affairs  Canada  and  jointly  implemented  by SANASA International and Développement international Desjardins (DID), under the guidance of the Chairman of Northern Province Tourism Bureau.

The welcome speech was delivered by Mr. Stanley Mascarenhas, Chairman of Northern Province Tourism Bureau highlighting the importance of a sustainable community-based plan for the island network in northern province.

He  expressed  his  sincere  gratitude  for  the  EFECS  Project  for  providing  the  required  financial facilitation  as  well  as  for  responsible  participation  for  every  key  initiative  taken  by  Northern Tourism during the past two years.

Further, he admired the participation of the key stakeholders to the meeting physically and online disregarding the pandemic risks. The workshop was focused on two key areas as the validation of proposed tourism strategic plan and proposed tourist routes within and between the islands.

Ms. Lashika Sabesan, a Town Planning professional graduated from the Department of Town and Country Planning of University of Moratuwa presented the concept of Island based tourism to the audience from a picturesque presentation.

This presentation gave the opportunity for the audience to understand the objectives as well as the outcomes of this project. A video presentation, exclusively focusing on “The Real Mannar” was brought up to the audience to refresh their mindsets about the largest Island Destination in Sri Lanka. There were five stunning video presentations were created by EFECS Project for Northern Province to highlight the unique features of every district and that has created a huge voice among national and international prospective travelers during this pandemic time.

“We are planning to find good source of funding to promote this island tourism plan similarly the way we promoted other islands with the help of EFECS Project” said Mr. Mascarenhas speaking to the audience. He further elaborated that Northern required a considerably higher attention on the infrastructure and arrival of investors is extremely important as the government entities alone cannot  do  this  exercise.  A  sincere  gratitude  was  extended  to  the  Government  of  Canada  for investing on this community-based initiative to uplift the livelihood of the people.

The  proposed  tourism  strategic  plan  and  routes  were  presented  by  Ms.  Veneka  Logenthiran, Project  Coordinator  of  this  programme.  The  proposed  tourism  strategic  plan  a  comprehensive SWOT analysis including participatory problems and potentials identified by previous community workshop and the Strategic Intervention including the Vision, Goals and Objectives. The proposed tourism  routes  have  discovered  numerous  existing  and  hidden  attractions  within  and  between islands. The proposed route was a 10days route which is ideal for a tourist who prefer isolation and entertainment within a pristine environment rich with nature and culture.

The  audience  proposed  to  include  thematic  routes  for the  Strategic  Plan specially  focusing  on Religious  Trails,  Historic  Trails,  Dutch  and  British  Heritage,  Nature  Trails…etc.  Also,  it  was proposed to highlight the existing accommodation and facilitations as well as to propose the ideal locations for the investors to come up with their proposals.

Geo Spatial Analysis was conducted exclusively for the Delft Island which would be the heart of future tourism among the Real North Islands.

Participated stakeholders delivered their ideas on the developed plan and the routes. “The biggest strength of Real North Islands is being the largest island base in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it should be highlighted  in  the  situational  analysis.  Similarly,  the  biggest  weakness  or  the  barrier  is  the accessibility whereas the existence of Jetty developments and lack of safe ferry services and boats” highlighted  by  Ms.  Harshi  Abeynayake,  Value  Chain  Officer  (Tourism)  commenting  on  the proposal.

Mr. F. Sathiyasothy, Divisional Secretary of Delft Island validated the proposed plan for Delft Island with some alterations and valuable comments received from the other divisional secretaries represented  from  Velanai,  Kayits  and  Poonakary.  A  list  of  attractions  and  the  route  will  be submitted for validation for the stakeholders those who were unable to attend the session said, Ms. Logenthiran. The final plan and the route are proposed to be presented on 15th September 2021.