INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SUSTAINABLE AND ECOTOURISM;
Sustainable Tourism Agents in Rural Societies (STARS)
The International Conference on Sustainable Tourism Agents in Rural Societies (STARS) which was held in Kandy and Horton Plains, Sri Lanka, from 19th to 25th February, 2016 has been successfully concluded.
The event was hosted by Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF), the pioneer National Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka (www.ecotourismsrilanka.net) in association with Education, Culture and Audiovisual Agency of the European Union (EU) and Fundación General de la Universidad de La Laguna located in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain.
The event has been supported by Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka (RUSL) and Department of Trade Commerce and Tourism, Central Provincial Council.
Youth Delegates from 07 (Seven) Island Nations of Canary and Tenerife Islands, (Spain), Madeira Island (Portugal), New Caledonia Island (France), the Solomon Islands (Oceania), Budeo Islands, Chile (Americas), Sri Lanka and Bali, (Indonesia-Asia) have taken part at this Conference. Apart from, a cross section of participants representing the Universities, Provincial Concils, environmental and conservation organizations, academia and scholars also has attended the conference representing Sri Lanka.
Delivering the welcome address, Palitha Gurusinghe, President, Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation, welcomed all the delegates attending the conference and he remarked; “Sustainable Tourism Agents in Rural Societies" (STARS) Project marks a historical land mark on promoting Sustainable and Ecotourism in the global tourism scenario which finally contribute to address the burning issues such as alleviation of poverty, high unemployment/under employment levels of the youth from the Island Nations which are involved in this project. I take this opportunity to convey my sincere thanks to the Education, Culture and Audiovisual Agency of the European Union (EU) and Ms. Santa Puce, International Project Director of Fundación General de la Universidad de La Laguna located in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain who has taken a great pain to move the project very professional manner”
Addressing the gathering, Santa Puce, the International Project Manager and Coordinator of Erasmus+, Fundación General de la Universidad de La Laguna located in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Canary Islands, Spain, said “"Sustainable Tourism Agents in Rural Societies" or STARS during the next year will work with the sustainable tourism hikes as a powerful tool for local development and youth empowerment. Being a project co-funded by "Erasmus+" programme of the European Commission and managed by NGOs, social enterprises, universities and public bodies, we decided took at the bigger picture and focus on the rest of the world and especially on sustainable tourism best practices developed by youth. It is a moment to put global challenges and local development at the centre of our activities in 2016/2017. Years have passed since STARS partners have started developing several sustainable tourism related activities in Sri Lanka, Chile, Spain (the Canary Islands), Portugal (Madeira), Indonesia (Bali) and the Solomon Islands and a challenging year lays ahead for us to develop our capacity building project through experience of projects developed in different continents. Today we don´t know the results of the project, but it is clear that maximum effort will be put in order to reply to the European Commission´s confidence when approving STARS project with one of the highest score of the call in the corresponding call”
Mr. Upali Ratnayake, Director Planning and Tourism Development, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) representing the Chairman, SLTDA, remarked;
“The concept of Ecological Tourism or popularly known as Ecotourism is a ‘new dimension of the global tourism industry in which selected sites and locations and sometimes entire geographical zones are being preserved for travelers to visit and appreciate them in their pristine natural beauty. Ecotourism is also defined as “responsible travel to natural areas which conserves the culture, environment and improves the welfare of the local community”.
Going through the Conference and Workshop Programmes I have found that very interesting and important topics are lined-up for discussions and brain storming, which would greatly benefits the youth from all island nations participating in this important event.
Mr. Ratnayake also outlined the latest tourism development strategies planned by SLTDA for next 03 years.
There were special academic sessions on Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism conducted by Ms. Santa Puce, International Project Manager of EU supported ERASMUS+ Programme and Mr. David Perdomo, Training Director, of "Isla CreActiva" Association in La Laguna, Tenerife Island, Spain assisted by Emilio Ricci is an Associate Professor at the Universidad Catolica Del Norte, Chile
The second part of the conference was held in Misty Hills Bungalow owned and managed by B.M. Mohideen, the Chairman of Misty Hills Community Tourism Organization, located at Udaweriya Estate off Ohiya, situated in the buffer zone of Horton Plains National Park. Here, the delegates were fascinated by the panoramic views of Sri Lanka mountainous range and they were given a wonderful opportunity to interact with the plantation youth living in the area.
The international delegates entertained the plantation community and their children for a very colorful concert and musical evening of their own countries. Apart from, the delegates educated the children from the plantations for informal educational sessions. Several field trips also were organized by the CBT to study the life styles of plantation community living in and around the national park
Kandy Hoteliers Association arranged a Welcome Dinner at Ozo, Kandy, for the visiting delegates while Chairman, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) hosted a Farewell Dinner to the delegates at the Samudra Hotel and graced the occasion by Mr. Malraj Kiriella, Director, General, SLTDA and Chandana Wijerathane, Director, Trade Standards and Quality Assurance, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority.