Tourism Development

National Tourism Policy for Sri Lanka


UNDP, Sri Lanka


Tourism Development




Summer 2021

To make sure tourism’s benefits reach everyone, make sure everyone’s voices are heard.

In 2021, I had the opportunity to assist on the development of Sri Lanka’s National Tourism Policy, a participative process that involved a true public-private partnership. Below, I’ve outlined the background for the project with the sponsor organization, the UNDP, as well as the steps we took to faciliate this project.

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

  • Eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimensions
  • Accelerate structural transformations
  • Build resilience to shocks and crises

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.

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.


  • SWOT Analysis – Based on many scholarly texts, private consultant analysis, and other publicly available materials, we created a SWOT analysis for Sri Lanka to be included in the Issues Paper.

  • Data Analysis – To better understand the tourism situation in Sri Lanka, we worked on a range of statistics and data, including accommodations, tourism employment rates, tourist arrivals, and comparative regional analysis.

  • Issues Paper – This was an evolving process to ultimately arrive at a document whose purpose was to pose key questions raised by public and private stakeholders that inform the debates for the formulation of the new public policy on tourism. It was the first intervention and shared a wide swath of information and assessments, from international benchmarks, growth, job creation, and tourism forecasts to key issues like economic and institutional recovery, the natural and built environments, infrastructure, product development, marketing, and human resources. We assisted in writing and editing the document, as well as updating it after each stakeholder meeting to ensure new information and ideas were incorporated.

After the completion of the Tourism Policy Issues Paper, the focus shifted to the participative process. 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.

  • Questionnaire Construction – While the first questionnaire sought more general inputs on areas that public and private stakeholders had concerns about, including domestic and international trends, the second questionnaire was necessarily more specific as it was informed by our meetings and their proposals. Many of these we had captured in some form as open-ended questions in the Issues Paper, so we worked to condense them into a more manageable number for the outreach.

  • Additional Research – To support participative stakeholder meetings and begin proposing solutions to the situations they were encountering, we created research documents based on subjects like apprenticeships, the legal structures of public companies, and the decentralization of a government. These topics helped inform potential reforms that were included in the distributed questionnaires.

  • Results Analysis – We took the raw data from the second questionnaire from three languages and created visual representations for the popularity of each reform, as well as cross-referencing approvals for reforms between public and private stakeholders to better understand if the support was proportionate within each group. Additionally, we grouped relevant stakeholder comments from the surveys in each language, from tourism association documents, and from meetings into a list of policy-specific questions we used to guide the last stakeholder meetings.

From this point, we were able to harmonize the stakeholder perspectives into a National Tourism Policy.

  • Developing KPIs, activities for Action Plan – As many stakeholders were keen to know just how the policy would be implemented, it was important to create a comprehensive Action Plan for achieving each of the reforms, complete with activities and key performance indicators. We assisted in creating the first draft of the Action Plan as we were beginning to write the National Tourism Policy.

Where The Sri Lanka National Tourism Policy Goes From Here

The National Tourism Policy came from the Sri Lankan tourism stakeholders – our role was merely to facilitate its development and provide structure. After our involvement with the policy development, they will vote to approve and implement in the coming months and years.