A special program is in the pipeline to expand tourism investment opportunities in the country. Tourism Minister, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga says that the aim of this programme is to attract more tourism investment to the island. Accordingly, the government has focused on providing relief to local and foreign businessmen who invest in the country's tourism industry.
The Minister also emphasized the need to expand tourism investment opportunities so that they do not cause any problem to the environment, archaeology and cultural sites in the country. He also pointed out that the government is paying close attention to providing facilities to tourists as well as the protection of ecological, archaeological and cultural sites.
He revealed these facts while addressing a progress review meeting of the Tourism Development Authority. The meeting was held at the Hotel Management Institute recently.
The tourism industry has been identified as an export industry for the first time. Accordingly, measures were taken to provide a VAT concession as well. The process of approving tourism investments has been facilitated and a general application has been prepared to cover all line agencies. Its aim is to save time and labour of the investor and the institution. It was also emphasized that foreign investment in the country's tourism industry has increased by 150% in the last year. In 2019, the country received US $ 108 million investment in tourism. It is expected that it will be increased to US $. 478 million in 2020. The Tourism Development Authority has also introduced a special handbook for investors. It covers the entire process from pre-application to final approval.
The Minister said that steps have been taken to formulate guidelines to assist investors in designing projects in line with all development guidelines in the country in conformity with the green building concept. It is expected to seek the views of all professional bodies such as the Urban Development Authority, Architects' Institutions and Engineering Institutions. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed between the Tourism Development Authority and the Board of Investment to reduce the time and cost of investors. Minister said that the Ministry had previously entered into similar agreements with the Coastal Conservation Department and the Urban Development Authority.
Secretary to the Ministry, S. Hettiarachchi, Additional Secretary, Waruna Samaradiwakara, and Deepa Sanansuriya, Chairperson, Kimali Fernando and Director General, Dhammika Wijesinghe were also present at the discussion.