Developing marinas supported by sound infrastructure facilities is the first step and a paramount need to kickstart nautical tourism in Sri Lanka, said Social Scientist and Tourism sector expert Dr. Dietmar Doering.
This warrants a sizable investment from the government. The question is, could it undertake this task when it is already saddled with a heavy debt-servicing burden and support such a massive investment, he said.
Well-developed marinas and ports are a prerequisite to develop a vibrant nautical tourism sector that will lure in tourists and help boost the much needed foreign direct investments to the country, Dr. Doering said.
However, he said the Government should analyse and look at statistics from other countries that have made leapfrog progress in marina operations as Sri Lanka has enormous potential for nautical tourism development. He said Sri Lanka with its 1,300 km coast line, of which the majority is yet untapped, will stand out, when it comes to attractiveness.
He said exploring the potential of Private-Public Partnership could be a better option to attract foreign direct investments for such mega development projects.
Sri Lanka should take a cue from Croatia, a small Mediterranean country with four million inhabitants and also look at neighbouring countries such as the Maldives, India, Thailand, Malaysia which are well ahead of Sri Lanka when it comes to luxury motor or sail yachting, Dr. Doering said
Croatia is an ideal example for Sri Lanka to emulate and develop nautical tourism ambitions. Croatia operates 56 marinas on a stretch of 600 km from Split to Rijeka bordering the Adriatic Sea which enables yacht owners to set up a marina in every 10km of coastal line, Dr. Doering said, adding that to date 78 charter companies operate 13.200 moorings.
He said annual revenue exceeds 38 million USD per annum for this small state only by providing parking slots for the yachts.
Sri Lanka’s several unsuccessful moves in the past to attract the high end and high spending tourists should be an eye opener to policy makers to exploit the vast resource of the country and develop the lucrative. It is self-explanatory that proprietors of luxury yachts which are priced in a spectrum between 400.000 USD to 3 million USD in the top range are high spenders which are also focusing on mixed developments with luxury apartments to anchor them on Land as well.
Vice versa Sri Lanka with its beautiful off shore sceneries and the unique feature of entertaining blue whales throughout the year, according the well-known ‘National Geographic’ magazine, could become a prime destination for yachts and yacht charter tourism.
Sri Lanka with its outstanding beauty on land and exemplary Marine life, its friendly people and a moderate warm climate throughout the year might look for its chance to attract the 1% affluent by launching nautical tourism at its earliest.