He said the Prime Minister during his recent visit to Jaffna had shown interest as per a request by India to develop the Palali airport to fly passengers to and from Jaffna to South India. “Mannar has plenty to offer visitors from heritage to natural attractions,” the Minister said.“We see immense opportunity for tourism development in the Mannar district while also creating income generation opportunities through home stay facilities, hotels, recreation and transportation,” he said.
Deriving its name from ‘Mann-Aru’ referring to the river that ran between the island and the mainland seemingly having the colour of sand, Mannar comprises the Adams Bridge which separates the Gulf of Mannar from the Palk Strait, the Taiaimannar Light House and Pier constructed by the British in 1915, the Talaimannar Beach - one of the best beaches in the country and the Palmyrah Forest, Adam’s Grave - a historical site and an Islamic religious place, the Keeri Beach - a charming and tranquil beach for swimming, the Mannar Fort built by the Portuguese in 1560 and rebuilt by the Dutch in 1696, the Baobab or the ‘Elephant Tree’ said to have been planted by Arab traders, the Vankalai bird sanctuary, the Dorich house built by the British in Arippu and the 400-year-old shrine of Our Lady of Madhu are some of the heritage and picturesque sites in the district.
However, the said absence of proper connectivity is a major hindrance to boost tourism in the district and therefore steps will be taken to develop the infrastructure facilities in the district.“The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority will send a team to Mannar to study the restoration work that needs to be carried out urgently in the district. Renovation of access roads to sites, provision of water, electricity and sanitary facilities will be given priority,” the Minister said.
The Mannar district known as the rice bowl of the country was among other districts in the North that was ravaged by the decades long war. Tourism officials said rebuilding the war-torn infrastructure and heritage sites will be an up-hill tasks but would be essential to draw visitors to the location.Images of the gruesome war still haunt the district with bullet riddled, roof ripped and partially devastated houses, temples, churches and kovils yet in existence in many places.Officials representing various organizations in the Mannar district said the benefits of tourism should trickle down to many and not to a few as many having been displaced for years could barely eke out a living.
World University of Service (WUSC) Canada Country Director Ester McIntosh said WUSC is keen to see better prospects for tourism in Mannar, a district with great potential.‘WUSC will support training and capacity building among youth who will be of much use for tourism development in Mannar. Technical assistance is a vital area for capacity building. WUSC helped bring chefs from Canada to assist hotels in the South and customer service in the North and the East,” McIntosh said.Mt. Lavinia Group Chairman and President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THSL) Sanath Ukwatte said July 15 was the Youth Skills Development Day and celebration of this day was quite apt when at a time the country needs skilled youth workers for tourism and other industries too.
“The world will need over 200 million jobs by 2026. The need for skilled workers apply to the toruism industry in Sri Lanka as well. The government alone cannot do this. The cooperation of the private sector and chambers is vital. Creating private public partnerships is essential to build skills and take the industry forward,” Ukwatte said.Marketing research played a major role in identifying potential for tourism in Mannar but marketing tools alone are not enough. There needs to be a national effort to build the infrastructure in the district,” he said.