‘Govt. strongly considering resumption of ferry service’

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran presenting tokens of appreciation to Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga, State Minister Ranjith Aluvihare and SLTDA Chairman Kavan Ratnayaka

Tourism Development and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga today said the government is strongly considering the possibility of resuming the ferry service between Rameshwaram and Thalaimannar.

He was addressing the World Tourism Day official celebration at the University of Jaffna recently.

The Minister said the government was keen to proceed with the plan as it would strongly benefit the Northern Province, including its tourism sector.

The Minister said Palaly Airport which operated as a military airport for a long time had been opened up for civilian transport.

The domestic airport, he said, would drastically increase the number of tourists visiting Jaffna as they would be able to fly to Palaly from the Bandaranaike International Airport. The Tourism Minister said the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) would soon open up a sub-office in Jaffna to expedite the industry’s growth in the province.

He requested the Tamil diaspora to return to the country and invest in the tourism industry in the North.

“Whenever I meet members of the Tamil diaspora when I go overseas, I request them to come back. That way, they will help themselves and their community. Tourism offers a great opportunity to the Northern Province,” he said.

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran urged the tourism authorities to tap into the full tourism potential of the North by resolving ‘bottlenecks’ in fund allocation, industry expertise, and planning. The Chief Minister said his province had many places that could be developed into provincial tourism hubs through the right strategies and fund allocation.

“We need more tourism experts in our province to realise its full potential,” the Chief Minister said, adding that he had presented several comprehensive plans to the government on tourism development in the Northern Province.

Wigneswaran, highlighting the importance of the tourism industry for better revenue generation, said the scenic islands in Jaffna and other beaches in the province could be developed into major tourist attractions, similar to those in the Eastern Province.

He said that although a strip between Palaithivu and Pallikuda had been earmarked for a ferry service that would benefit the tourism industry, the process had come to a halt due to Navy occupation in the area.

The Chief Minister attributed the industry’s slow growth to external factors such as anomalies in fund allocation and the absence of inclusive planning.

“We have no reservations about working with the government or tourism bodies of the central government as long as our regional rights are not violated,” Wigneswaran said.

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman Kavan Ratnataka promised to fast track measures to develop tourism in the province in a holistic and sustainable manner.

“Tourism, I am sure, will be the number one or number two sector in Jaffna. But the industry in the province should grow in a manner that preserves the authenticity of the tourism experience it offers. You, in Jaffna, should remain who you are. At the same time, the growth of the industry should be sustainable,” he said.

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