USAID Helps Tourism Economy Weather a Crisis and Build the Future

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In 2018, the USAID-funded YouLead Project supported the creation of a Tourism Skills Committee (TSC). The TSC is a private-sector collaboration devoted to developing Sri Lanka’s tourism workforce to support the tourism industry and the country’s growth as a world class tourist destination. It has proven to be a proactive, professional advocate for the tourism industry, ready to respond to a range of challenges.

The Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife, and Christian Religious Affairs receives the tourism plans

The Minister of Tourism Development, Wildlife, and Christian Religious Affairs receives the tourism plans

After Sri Lanka’s heartbreaking Easter Sunday attacks in April 2019, the tourism industry faced a near-term crisis. While international risk assessors quickly determined the country was still safe for visitors, that message wasn’t reaching the international audience the way it needed to. The TSC realized its members had a role to play in supporting the government in precise messaging and response. So, in a time of chaos, they stepped up to take the lead.

A subset of TSC members made the decision to form a separate group in response to the immediate challenge, the Sri Lanka Tourism association (SLTA). The SLTA identified the need to develop a crisis response plan for the tourism industry, and a longer-term resilience plan. YouLead was able to rapidly connect the SLTA to Australian government funding to support the resilience plan and provide a crisis response specialist from their own pool of specialized consultants.

Within two weeks, a privately financed industry portal, lovesrilanka.org, was launched to provide information for visitors and the travel industry itself. Within six weeks there were two collaborative, practical documents ready for action: the crisis response plan and the resilience plan. They were developed by consultants in close collaboration with members of the SLTA’s advisory board—and ready for immediate use. This partnership represents a sustainable, long-term public-private collaboration that will help to promote and enhance the future of tourism in Sri Lanka and create an industry that can meet the challenges head on when faced with future crises.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Youth Employment and Business Start-up (YouLead) Program is a four-year program that supports USAID’s goal to increase the employability of youth in Sri Lanka. YouLead focuses on improving access to employment opportunities, increasing the prospects of successful self-employment, and improving the quality and relevancy of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) by enhancing learning experiences, and strengthening the TVET environment in Sri Lanka.