This interview with Palitha Gurusinghe of the Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF) is part of our Asian Ecotourism Network (AEN) series. Palitha gives us a glimpse into the current state of ecotourism in Sri Lanka, its triumphs and challenges. He explains SLEF’s mission and vision, and how the organization works tirelessly to ensure the development and promotion of sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka. We will also learn about the importance of tourism in fighting rural abandonment and how sustainable tourism, both in Sri Lanka and worldwide, is dependent on the education of current and future stakeholders for it’s continued survival and prosperity.
- The Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF), its mission, vision and major achievements;
- How industry awards have helped SLEF achieve its goals and position Sri Lanka as an international ecotourism destination;
- The current state of sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka;
- How ecotourism can help fight rural abandonment;
- Advice for those wanting to enter the sustainable tourism industry in Sri Lanka/Asia.
Palitha, do you remember your view of sustainable tourism when you first began your professional career?
Yes, it was in 1998 when we first founded the Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF), the pioneer national ecotourism society in Sri Lanka. Before that, I was actively engaged in mainstream tourism, well over 18 years. Over the years, I realized mainstream tourism would not contribute to ensure economic and social benefits to the communities.
The main focus and objectives of SLEF towards sustainable tourism still remain unchanged to this day:
“To assure socio-economic and socio-cultural benefits to the communities in Sri Lanka through sustainable tourism”
Now in 2016, how much of that view is still there? What has changed?
The focus/views are still the same. That has been our mission/vision since the inception of SLEF. The foundation focuses on the economic and social development of rural communities through tourism.