Sri Lanka to promote spiritual and eco-tourism attractions in north west

Sri Lanka’s north western province officials are set to highlight lesser known tourist attractions in the area, and hold a street food festival from November 10 through 12, in a bid to draw tourists to the region.

“We have selected specific historical, religious sites and reserves meant to promote spiritual and eco-tourism, in addition to a street food festival meant to launch Kurunegala as a stop for transitory tourists on the way to their destinations,” the north western province secretary Ranjith Ariyarathne said at a press conference yesterday (6).

Among the selected tourist attraction sites for local and foreign spiritual tourism promotion in the province are the Munneshwaram Kovil, Na Uyana monastery, Ridee Viharaya, Rankala and St Anne’s Church in Thalawila.

For eco-tourism, the sites highlighted will be Gange Wadiya fishing village, Wilpattu nature reserve, Deduru oya and Rajanganaya.

The food fiesta is to take place on the Kurunegala lake round, along a 700-800 metre stretch of the path. The street food festival’s attractions, aside from food and beverage, include entertainment, gaming, boat services, sales of north-western province sourced products and other stalls.

“We can improve our contribution to GDP as a sector and move it up from its position as the second largest sector to contribute, to the first largest contributor. One way to do it is to aim for both local and foreign tourism,” said Ariyarathna.

“The Kurunegala lake round development investment, which we received UN Habitat and Asian Habitat Society support to develop, has been nominated for the Asia Township Awards for its contribution to improving living ease among the population in Kurunegala.”

Kurunegala is a major transitory hub for foreign and local tourists, north western province development authority director general Ajantha Gunawardena said.

“For those travelling straight from the airport to the north, or those travelling from the up country to the down south, all of these tourists pass through the city of Kurunegala.”

However, “the city sleeps by 7 pm and there are not many reasons for tourists to spend more time in the city and help businesses,” he said.

The north western food fiesta is meant to kickstart a street food and after hours culture that can cater to the transitory tourists.

“The Kurunegala Lake is already popular among transitory tourists, and the lake round development and investment efforts are meant to cement it as a tourist pit stop, for those on their way to their destinations.”

North western province governor Lakshman Yapa Abeywwardena said that kitesurfing in Kalpitiya has the potential to elevate the region to the likes of Maldives, geared towards high-end tourists.

“We are in talks with the Navy commander to develop the Dutch prison fort as a tourist attraction too. So promoting these locations and putting them on the map will naturally attract tourists and solve the issue of a lack of star-class rooms in the area to accommodate tourists.”

The governor pointed out that the Hiriketiya village’s success as a tourist hotspot followed a similar set of circumstances.

“Tourists didn’t know of the village, but now that they do, the footfall to the village has drawn businesses there to facilitate star-class rooms. So we have to give tourists a good reason to visit a place as we put it on the map for visibility,” he said.

“There should be an attraction that would likely draw them to it. Once the attraction takes off, the other facilities needed for sustaining tourism in the area will come, due to the demand.”