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UNDP SLTDA Partnership to establish a National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme NSTCS

21 February 2019

SLTDA and UNDP signed an agreement to establish National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme NSTCS for Sri Lanka Tourism. Under this agreement UNDP is providing technical and financial assistance to the SLTDA to design and implement a pilot project for sustainable tourism certification.


The main reason for the Project to have started is to put into action the Sri Lanka Tourism Strategic Plan TSP 2017- 2020. In the TSP, sustainability occupies an important place. Sustainable tourism in all aspects of tourism development and a national sustainable tourism certification scheme has been identified as a crucial element, placing emphasis on the development of the country’s tourism industry.


With international arrivals expected to rise globally, destinations strive to enhance their tourism competitiveness. While tourism growth brings positive outcomes for countries, there could also be negative impacts, unplanned tourism could lead to problems. Against this background, Sri Lanka government too with its ambitious growth targets of tourists arrivals, acknowledges that the tourism industry need to continue in offering positive tourism experiences ensuring the long term sustainability. It’s not a secret that some tourism hot spots are already feeling the pressure of tourism.


This project was designed considering the current importance given to sustainable tourism globally, and to successfully compete as a highly demanded destination. Therefore, the global context was considered in designing the project so that NSTCS will be relevant not only to Sri Lanka but also internationally.


Sri Lanka Tourism reached the No. 1 ranking as Top Destinations to visit in 2019 by the Lonely Planet, followed by Sri Lankan cuisine ranking to No. 1 in BBC Good Food 15 food trends for 2019. Research of more than 1.3 million social media posts found the Asian city location travellers most want to take a pictures of- Colombo ranked No. 1. These are very valuable recognitions that any destination would aspire to achieve. What this means to Sri Lanka is, it will experience a rapid influx of tourists to the Island. This is all the more reason why Sri Lanka should treat sustainability as an urgent intervention without delay.

NSTCS will lead Sri Lanka Tourism in the right direction.


Given the vast and complex nature of all tourism service providers, this project scope considers the accommodation sector in the first phase. Already the first batch of hotels have applied for certification and their impressive sustainable practices will be recognized through this scheme.


Minister of Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Affairs, Hon. John Amaratunga explains that

"Sustainable development is the foundation for developing Sri Lanka as a tourism destination. Our strategic plan identifies the need and the importance of growing the industry in a sustainable manner. We have already embarked on a valuable journey to retain Sri Lanka as a No 1 Destination in the World” He further stated that “UNDP’s technical assistance in sustainable tourism is very relevant and timely to our country.”



Mr. Kishu Gomes, Chairman STDA remarked that “Sri Lanka Tourism has optimistic goals to be achieved in the next 3 to 5 years, these deliverables can only be ensured if we grow the industry in a sustainable manner where product and service quality is maintained on par with the best of the world. Then we will have satisfied repeat tourists and they will bring more tourism to the country through word of mouth publicity.”


The Resident Representative of UNDP Sri Lanka, Jorn Sorensen stated “The Adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals presents us a huge opportunity to put Sri Lanka on a more prosperous and sustainable development path. This is why UNDP is pleased to partner with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority to make the tourism industry more sustainable in the long run and ensure its benefits are more widely shared."


The project involves a partnership of SLTDA, BIOFIN and UNDP.

BIOFIN is a UNDP managed global collaboration to develop and implement an evidence-based methodology that improves biodiversity outcomes using finance and economics.


SLTDA is the government authority tasked with planning, development, regulation, and policy implementation of tourism and related industries.


Signed Agreement was exchanged by the Chairman Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Mr. Kishu Gomes and UNDP Ms. Tharuka Dissanaike, Policy and Design Specialist UNDP in the presence of the Hon John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism Development Wildlife and Christian Affairs, and Director General SLTDA, Mr. Upali Ratnayake.


Expected outcomes of the NSTCS project are:

§  Establishing a National Sustainability Certification Scheme enabling SLTDA to certify sustainable tourism businesses in Sri Lanka. Promoting sustainable tourism is increasingly becoming essential to balance environmental protection with development, but also enhancing competitiveness of individual tourism businesses, and promoting Sri Lanka as a sustainable tourism destination. The certification scheme will serve to mitigate the negative impacts of tourism, but also incentivize tourism businesses to transition toward environmentally and socially responsible business practices.


§  A national certification will help Sri Lanka tourism to progress toward its Vision be recognized as the world’s finest island for memorable, authentic and diverse experiences. This certification scheme will help offer high value extraordinary experiences that reflect Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and cultural heritage, that are socially inclusive and environmentally responsible.


§  NSTCS would serve to incentivize tourism providers to integrate environmentally and culturally sensitive practices making the businesses more competitive locally, and internationally.


§  Minimizing the negative impacts on the environment and local culture ensures that the country’s resources can be harnessed for generations to come. Importantly, generating income, providing skilled employment opportunities, preserving local ecosystems and cultures, and creating a positive experiences for local people, tourism companies, and tourists themselves. This maximizes the positive contribution of tourism, including contribution to poverty reduction.


§  The Scheme will contribute towards UNSDGs More information contact:

Director General SLTDA/ Mr. Upali Ratnayake 0112426800 ext. 107/ e mail upalir@srilanka.travel

National Consultant UNDP/ Ms. Charmarie Maelge 0112426800 ext. 151 / e mail charmarie@srilanka.travel

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