Tourism Stakeholders get together in Ezhalai Village for a better future……

20th December 2019 at Ezhalai Sri Vinayakar thrift and Credit Society, Ezhalai West, Jaffna.

Initiating tourism project in village level where the tourists rarely visit is a challenge for the rural community. 80% of the rural population scattered in the island has this common challenge. Although it looks like a very simple process of serving a tourist in a village, creating a planned tourism village / area must be done following a scientific approach. Most of the unplanned tourist areas have created socio-cultural as well as environmental issues in Sri Lanka. Considering this situation, EFECS project attempts to introduce the most sustainable, scientific approach to the rural setting where the tourism is not existing through the “Tourism for Village” programme.

As a pilot model, EFECS introduced the project activities and the implementation methodology to the members of Ezhalai Sri Vinayakar thrift and Credit Society, Ezhalai West, Jaffna which is one of the strongest societies of SANASA in the Jaffna District in November 2019. Thereafter, with the support of the community in Ezhalai, EFECS prepared a comprehensive Tourism Development Plan with the technical assistance of University of Moratuwa, Department of Town and Country Planning. The plan was presented at the Focussed Group Discussion held on 20th December 2019 in Ezhalai with the participation of 43 tourism stakeholders in Jaffna Region.

Mr. K. Mahadevan presented a warm welcome to the participants as the Chairman of the Ezhalai Sri Vinayakar thrift and Credit Society. Mrs. U. Vanaya, Secretary of the society and few interested society members too attended the programme with the intention of connecting with the tourism industry in future.

Existing as well as interested stakeholders under the 6 categories (Attractions, Accessibility, Accommodation, Amenities, Activities and Awareness) were participated at the forum. Mr. Chopadhithya Edirisinghe, Value chain team leader, EFECS project welcome the tourism stakeholders with a brief introductory note on the project. Mrs. S. Shyamala, Assistant Commissioner of Department of Cooperative Development attended the programme. Representatives from Northern Tourism Bureau and Jaffna Hotels Association as well as the SANASA District Union was attended the forum.

Ezhalai has lots of potentials on establishing tourism activities such as the existence of Middle and upper-income community to establish homestays, Well connected road network, Agricultural surrounding with a vast range of crops including, vegetable, fruits and grain Geographical location as a centre place of Jaffna peninsula, Youth participation, Cultural surrounding and neighbourhood, International relationships with people living in different countries, over the world.

Although there are problems such as water salinity level, hard water and contamination of groundwater, Dry weather condition and seasonal drought where the majority of small-scale inland water bodies only remaining rainy seasons (November- December), the area is potential to overcome through a well-planned concept.

Although the hotels are agglomerated in the Jaffna city limits, there are potentials in diverting tourists into the villages.

Accordingly, if properly focussed, this village could be The blooming PINNACLE of Jaffna peninsula as a destination by 2030 Preserving the Identity of Jaffna by Nourishing the Network of Arteries, Connected with the Landscape Experience proposed the enumerators from the University of Moratuwa.

Plan propose to enhance Chunnakam | Mallakam as a tourist destination in Jaffna peninsula and to promote the concept of Agro-tourism with the sense of place. Smart and Smooth Traveling experiences should be created and the accommodation at affordable pricing for backpack travellers by 2030 in Jaffna peninsula.

There is a requirement of establishing required amenities for tourists in close proximity and it may be less time-consuming.  This area should be a better place to get the real feeling of Jaffna staying with the Homestay and also to get the experience of a unique cultural spirit of Jaffna related with its inherent nature.

Further, the study proposed that this village could shift as a secondary or tertiary production from agricultural products with a diversifying economy by 2030 (Fruits, vegetables, grains). Concept of smart travelling with apps and online booking can be promoted in a more convenient way.

Traveling apps such as Pick me, Uber, Multi-purpose applications such as Trip advisor, Foursquare, Maps and location finder such as Google maps, Maps.me, Communication Apps such as Google Translate, Whatsapp, Viber has to be promoted. Since there are number of ways to travel in more comfort and convenient way in Jaffna using Three wheelers, Bicycles, Cars/ vans tourist must have given the chance to select the easy accessibility options by a different mode of transportation with minimum time/ distance.

Accordingly, the best tourism rout was presented considering the distribution of tourist attractions around the focussed area.

Participants were given the opportunity of introducing themselves to the forum at the end of the session.

“Cycling is one of the most potential activities that can be promoted in Jaffna. I have done a research on Promoting Bicycle Tours in Jaffna and planning to implement a suitable project soon”.

But I must highlight that there are lots of threat from the fast-growing Cannabis and Drugs in Jaffna, prompt solutions to be taken to prevent them to enable the region for tourism. Also, a bus journey from Colombo to Jaffna takes about 7 to 8 hours though there are no entertainment for the travellers and therefore the traveller drops in Jaffna with almost tired and disappointed mentality. These types of sensitive issues should be prevented” said an interested graduate from the Agriculture Faculty attended the forum with the intention of starting up a business in tourism.

Mr. Nadesh, Development Officer from the Northern Tourism Bureau admired the planning work that has been done by the University of Moratuwa and highlighted that conducting these kinds of programmes in the villages itself adds value to the community.

He further proposed to conduct the sessions only in Tamil Language without translations for the convenience of the audience. He emphasized that the Milk based production has to be promoted and established for the benefit of community as a complementary product for tourism.

A Northern Traditional Ayurvedic Medicinal Family represented the Amenity Category at the Focussed Group Discussion with the intention of expanding their services to the tourists.

Dr. R Lakshmanaiyar, renowned Ayurvedic Practitioner in Northern explained that the Jaffna Environment is being polluted with the disposal of polyethene and plastic and therefore some tourists do not prefer to revisit the region.

Even in the Nallur area some people used to come in Motor Bikes and throw garbage bags to the roads after 6pm.  This kind of problems must be sorted out in terms of promoting Jaffna District said Dr. Lakshmanaiyar.

Mr. S Karthigan, representative from the Jaffna Hotel Association stated that the air transportation is not flexible with the high prices as up and down would cost around Rs. 18,000/-. He further explained that the prevailing lows and regulations do not permit night parties in the island as well as the soft liquor that are expected by the tourists comes on leisure travels to Jaffna. Not existence of a proper Waste Management System for Jaffna will be a threat in developing homestays voiced Mr. Karthigan.

Tourism Value Chain was described with a brief listing of the actors comes under the 6As categories for the understanding of the audience. EFECS Project will be addressing on the Financial and Non-Financial Needs of the entrepreneurs in Tourism in Jaffna District in the next step. We seek more entrepreneurs in tourism to register with us in the Jaffna District to obtain the benefits from this project said Ms. Harshi Abeynayake ending her presentation.