From February to September of 2021, I assisted on the implementation of a National Tourism Policy in Sri Lanka with the UNDP. Below I detail the organization and my involvement.

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The United Nations Development Programme and Sri Lanka

As part of the global development network of the United Nations, the United Nations Development Programme focuses on three development contexts:

The following six signature solutions are proposed as ways around which to align resources and make an impact to guide sustainable development:

  1. Keep people out of poverty
  2. Governance for peaceful, just, and inclusive societies
  3. Crisis prevention and increased resilience
  4. Environment: nature-based solutions for development
  5. Clean, affordable energy
  6. Women’s empowerment and gender equality

Following the Ministry of Tourism’s decision to initiate the development process for a National Tourism Policy in early 2021, the entire tourism industry has been engaged in mapping a plan for Sri Lanka’s recovery. With those overarching contexts and solutions in mind, the UNDP has been providing technical support to the government of Sri Lanka. 

In addition to the UNDP’s technical assistance, the participative process of developing this policy has included members of the Ministry of Tourism, the Inter-Ministerial Tourism Committee, the Advisory Council, the Tourism Ministry Working Group, the Ministry of Finance, the Private Sector stakeholders, and Provincial Council representatives.

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UNDP & Sri Lanka

With the UNDP, we were actively involved in working with the group dedicated to Sri Lanka. Starting in March, we began almost weekly conversations and e-mail exchanges with a core group of 4-5 UNDP representatives. This process includes developing a questionnaire and organizing consultation meetings with different stakeholder groups. As we developed drafts and documents, we would exchange regularly for feedback and direction, providing updates on materials and timelines. Starting in April and going through May and June, we held Zoom meetings with these stakeholder groups, first to present results from the original questionnaire and ask qualifying questions, and then later to follow-up on the proposed reforms of the second questionnaire. 

Beyond COVID-19, Sri Lanka as a country has had a fair share of difficulties over the past few decades, including the tsunami in 2004, a civil war that ended in 2009, and a terrorist attack on Easter Sunday in 2019. Much of the conflict comes between two ethnic groups, and though it has subsided, it has left a significant developmental gap and economic impact on the country. This was clear not only in the research and analysis stages but in the stakeholder meetings as well as different groups spoke about the incidents in different ways - some politically correct, some quite blunt - and these territorial and political differences can be seen affecting tourism development. It was also seen in the implementation of this participative process. Though meetings were generally conducted in English, Sinhalese, and Tamil language meetings with certain provinces occurred, and official questionnaires were also available in all 3 languages. This suggests much of the social fabric is still affected by the cultural differences throughout the country.

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The overall deliverable for Sri Lanka was a National Tourism Policy. Because delivering that policy required a participative process, many of the tasks that I performed were aligned with supporting the creation of the documents used throughout each phase of the participative process.

Over the six months of the project, my work supported this participative process through research, analysis, and writing. Though not officially broken down into three phases, the below sections help to delineate the process and my role within it.

Part I: Research, First Questionnaire, and Issues Paper

To better understand the current tourism situation in Sri Lanka, as well as what efforts had been made toward creating national tourism documents in the past, this first phase was primarily about the research necessary to create a Tourism Policy Issues Paper.

Part II: Second Questionnaire & Stakeholder Meetings

After the completion of the Tourism Policy Issues Paper, the meetings transitioned from an understanding and analysis of the tourism situation to potential reforms that could have a lasting impact. Through these stakeholder meetings - and supported by independent research - reforms were considered and built into a second questionnaire which was distributed to all stakeholders. As results came in, we were able to reach a general validation for the majority of the reforms, which then led to the writing of the National Tourism Policy.

Part III: National Tourism Policy

From the last few meetings in July and into August, we were able to start filling in the National Tourism Policy document.

From February to September of 2021, I was engaged as a communications assistant in developing support materials for an ITC program in Dawei, Myanmar. I detail the organization and my involvement below.

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Established in 1964 as a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, the ITC focuses on enabling Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in emerging and transitioning economies to become more competitive. This includes connecting them to international markets for trade and investment, building capacities among stakeholders, and working to fulfill ITC’s mission of creating “trade impact for good.”In this particular project, the ITC had partnered with the Netherlands Trust Fund to promote Inclusive Tourism in the Kayah State and Tanintharyi Region of Myanmar. The project ran from December 2017 to June 2021, and included support in the following areas:

Following the success of the first iteration in Kayah State, a survey conducted by ITC suggested two villages in the Dawei area had the highest potential for additional inclusive tourism development, along with the Dawei city center. Because of this potential, the region was chosen for the continued development of its tourism products and services, as well as training their tourism service providers.

As another note on the context and our ability to work with stakeholders (already diminished because of COVID-19’s impact on travel), the start date of my project was February 1st, 2021, which coincided with the same day of the 2021 Myanmar coup d’état.

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Our work with the ITC and Myanmar was, perhaps unsurprisingly, more hands-off. The original task was to develop an Action Plan for Dawei. As it became clear after the coup that stakeholder involvement would be minimal at best, we undertook a process to see which of the operational objectives could be met through the remote development of materials. This iterative process - which started with the action plan, then led to the drafting of fact sheets and documents, before ultimately becoming a proposal - involved a monthly meeting with our contact at the ITC between February and June. 

In between, the ideas for what ultimately became 5 communication materials - 3 animations and 2 presentations - were outlined, developed, and then created. Due to the sensitivity in the Dawei area, we held off from involving or engaging with local stakeholders for the majority of the project. Towards its end, however, we began to work more closely with an ITC representative based in Myanmar to create Myanmar language versions of the animations (both the voice and text).

  1. Powerpoint - Leveraging Digital Promotion Opportunity
  2. Powerpoint - Guidelines for Tourism Awareness
  3. Animated Video - Introduction to the Tourism Awarding Process
  4. Animated Video - Tourism Sustainability Check-Up
  5. Animated Video - Codes of Conduct & Sustainability Certifications

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All presentations and videos are available for review upon request.

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