April, 6, 2022
Over 100 MSMEs in the Southern Province receive support to strengthen resilience against disasters
Tourism is a vital economic sector for Sri Lanka, employing 250,000 persons directly and up to 2 million persons indirectly, and accounting for 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, over the past three years, the sector has suffered multiple crises from the 2019 Easter attacks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Realizing the need to build the resilience of the industry to face shocks, the Connecting Business Initiative (CBi), a joint initiative by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), supported by the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL) has launched the ‘Building Disaster Resilience of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the Tourism Sector of the Southern Province in Sri Lanka’ project. The project works with key stakeholders and institutions such as the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), Ruhunu Tourism Bureau, Galle, Matara and Hambantota District Chambers, and the National Craft Council of the Southern Provincial office.
With the aim of developing institutional mechanisms and to forge partnerships with the private sector to promote MSMEs of the Southern Coastal Belt to diversify livelihoods and prepare for disasters, the project allows these businesses to continue operations even in the face of emergencies. Working together with private sector organizations in the tourism industry such as Aitken Spence Hotel & Travels, Booking.com, Pantala Pvt. Ltd among others, a series of capacity building and training programmes have been completed within the Southern Province.
As such, a key outcome of this project is to distribute equipment and tools to support MSMEs, improve and optimize the tourism value chain and thus, diversify businesses and increase incomes. To this end, the Connecting Business Initiative in Sri Lanka together with its partners recently handed over equipment targeting 126 participants representing 100 MSMEs of which 50% of beneficiaries are women.
Accordingly, three handover ceremonies took place last week in the districts of Galle, Matara and Hambanthota at the Hall de Galle, Matara District Chambers of Commerce, and the Hambantota District Chambers of Commerce respectively. Present at the event were 13 National Craft Councils (NCCs) and 39 organizations from the Hambantota District Chambers of Commerce, including representatives from APAD and UNDP in Sri Lanka.
Speaking at the ceremony in Hambanthota, Ms. Shihana Maas of Duncan Murray guesthouse stated, “I was struggling to continue running my guesthouse due to fewer visitors because of COVID-19, but this project has given invaluable support, providing trainings and equipment to help me continue operating and face any challenges in the future”.
Highlighting UNDP’s overall support to the project, Ms. Sureka Perera, Programme Quality and Design Analyst, Climate and Environment Team, UNDP in Sri Lanka stated, “UNDP is keen to build back tourism as a resilient and sustainable industry, which is a key foreign exchange contributor and critical to Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. Capacity development is vital to the resuscitation of the sector and is a core area of UNDP’s support while ensuring the sector is gender and youth inclusive, to ensure we leave no one behind”.
Mr. Ajith Liyanage, Operations Manager, Hambantota District Chamber of Commerce noted, “this initiative was a collaborative effort. The smooth project coordination enabled support to communities in a timely manner and which has greatly benefited the targeted MSMEs”.
The partnership between the global Connecting Business Initiative, with UNDP and A-PAD Sri Lanka signifies the critical importance of the tourism sector to Sri Lanka’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery, building disaster resilience, providing assets to add value to businesses and encouraging MSMEs to continue operations, even amidst challenging times.