Underworld in Sri Lankan Tourism

Underworld in Sri Lankan Tourism

“Foreigner-Run Underworld in Sri Lankan Tourism: SLTDA Takes Action”

In a startling revelation, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) acknowledged a long-standing issue of unauthorized foreigner-operated businesses flourishing within the country. Chairman Priantha Fernando admitted that various agencies, including the SLTDA, had been “rather complacent” in addressing this concern over the past two years.

However, with the issue now in the limelight, the SLTDA is gearing up to collaborate with the Department of Immigration and Emigration and the police to identify and crack down on these unauthorized enterprises. Fernando emphasized the need to promote lawful investments while firmly dealing with businesses operated by individuals without proper visas, particularly tourist visa holders.

Fernando stressed the SLTDA’s commitment to taking stringent measures against unlicensed establishments, blaming some Sri Lankans for leasing properties to foreigners who then engage in unauthorized businesses, posing a challenge to local communities.

While acknowledging the importance of foreign investment in tourism, Fernando outlined a formal process, suggesting that large-scale operations must obtain approval from the Board of Investment and employ local staff. Small and medium enterprises could hold up to 49 percent shares in joint ventures with locals owning 51 percent, subject to SLTDA approval.

The SLTDA’s recent pilot effort involved visiting seven reported unlicensed establishments. Surprisingly, five of them had collaborations with locals, running their businesses with foreigners possessing residence visas. While not registered with the SLTDA, these businesses had some form of registration and a business license.

As the SLTDA gears up for a major operation against unauthorized establishments, the focus is on bringing these businesses within the legal framework, ensuring transparency, and safeguarding local interests in the tourism sector. The move aims to strike a balance, attracting foreign investments without compromising the rights of well-meaning entrepreneurs.

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