Sri Lanka targets superyacht tourism

COLOMBO:Sri Lanka’s Tourism Promotion Bureau is currently addressing obstacles to marine tourism, specifically leisure activities on yachts. Led by the bureau’s Director General, Nalin Perera, he explains how the government aims to address concerns as to the nation’s ability to cater for the superyacht community.

“One of the reasons for this challenge was the absence of proper classification criteria for marine tourism in Sri Lanka,” he says. “The classification has been finalised, but there are a few areas where we are receiving assistance from the Asian Devoplement Bank yet to address.”

Operators have previously raised concerns about requirements from the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS), imposed by Sri Lanka’s Directorate of Merchant Shipping. These requirements, not enforced by countries like Thailand or those in the Red Sea region, has been perceived as a hindrance to ‘live aboard’ cruises.

Nalin Perera adds the potential for marine tourism, Tourism Minister Harin Fernando emphasised that Sri Lanka boasts numerous sunken wrecks that could be utilised to promote diving.

Despite being surrounded by the sea, Sri Lanka lacks a domestic yacht culture and has not yet developed yacht-based tourism or infrastructure, which has led to a shortage of trained crew on the island. Perra says that some operators also faced regulatory hurdles when attempting to launch the industry, particularly dealing with requirements for employing local crew.

According to Tourism Minister Harin Fernando, Sri Lanka’s main focus is to attract wealthy Indian yacht owners to berth their vessels in marinas throughout the country. With recently completed marina in Colombo Port City, along with sites in Galle and Trincomalee, the government is hoping to establish a captivating destination for yacht owners in neighboring India and act as an alternative superyacht hub to options in the Middle East.

“Rich Indians who have their yachts in Dubai, where it is very expensive to keep, can park their yachts in Sri Lanka,” he says. “They can fly their private jets into Mattala or Koggala and take their yachts. So it is an ideal destination to be promoted for high end tourists.”

In setting tourism targets for 2024, Sri Lanka aspires to welcome 2.3 million tourists, a significant surge from the 1.48 million visitors in 2023. India is expected to play a substantial role, with a target of 310,000 to 343,000 tourists. Sri Lanka is also targeting at least 258,000 tourists from Russia, 251,000 from China, 193,000 from the UK, and 151,000 from Germany.

To foster growth in the domestic sector, Fernando has appealed to Sri Lankan President, Ranil Wickremesinghe to reduce taxes, introduce water sports and implement plans for a boat service industry akin to that of the Maldives.

Fernando adds that Sri Lanka also has 143 wrecks around the island ideal for keen divers.
“In 2024 we will focus on marine tourism,” Fernando says. “We have water all over. We need to go diving and surfing. We need to exhibit this by deep sea diving and [sports] fishing, and by making our beeches safe for all water sports activities.”

© Superyacht News

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