'Formal Recognition of Excellence in Tourism Industry in Sri Lanka'
'I hope this important award would certainly help me to support further the poor communities, in sharing the tourism income, who are living around the tourism generating areas of Sri Lanka'
Palitha has been actively contributing to the development of tourism in Sri Lanka in many ways spanning
over 32 years. He is the founder President of Sri Lanka Ecotourism Foundation (SLEF), the pioneer 'National Ecotourism Society
of Sri Lanka' that was established in 1998. During past thirteen years he pioneered in promoting Community Based Ecotourism in
Sri Lanka and worked hand in hand with other like-minded organizations in Sri Lanka, South and South East Asia, promoting
Community Based Tourism Projects and poverty alleviation programmes through tourism. He also introduced the Concepts of
'Community Ecolodges' and 'Community Camping' to Sri Lanka Tourism. These programmes were initiated to promote community
tourism and uplifting of the life-styles of the poor communities in tourism generating areas in Sri Lanka. Community Camping
and Community Ecolodges are the vital tools to ensure tangible alternative income to the communities through tourism.
Palitha is a well known teacher, trainer and researcher in Ecotourism and during past years he has travelled extensively in many parts of the world promoting ecotourism as an International Presenter. Recognizing the Applicant's untiring efforts in promoting CBEs in Sri Lanka, he has been invited to share his experience at global forums on 'Community Based Tourism' held in Far East, Australia, Japan, India and several other countries. In taking part of those forums he has been able to bring a vast knowledge and experience to further build up of CBE concept in Sri Lanka. In recognizing and appreciating of his services rendered to the ecotourism field in Sri Lanka and internationally, he has been appointed as an Advisory Board Member of The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), the largest and most important ecotourism world body in 2010. Recently, appreciating of his services rendered to the ecotourism field in South Asian Region, he has been appointed as the Head of South Asia Chapter of 'The Region', a regional tourism organization based in Central Asia, an initiative of Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. 'The Region 'was launched with the hope to develop ecotourism and sustainable tourism in the region.
The Concepts developed and the activities initiated and implemented in Ecotourism by Palitha would go a longway in supporting Sri Lanka tourism, because, Ecotourists are higher spenders than 'ordinary' mass tourists. High spending, nature-loving, responsible tourists are undoubtedly an attractive option for governments looking for ways of earning foreign exchange through tourism.
Palitha's dedication for the cause of poverty alliviation through ecotourism for the poor communites in Sri Lanka is important, because, Ecotourism is often seen by the poor communities as one of the few alternative livelihoods which are open to them. Communities whose people are living in poverty, invariably find their young people migrating to urban centers, because of the decline in traditional industries such as agriculture and fishing. Ecotourism can prevent this urban drift and provide them with an essential alternative income. Ecotourism could act as a catalyst to mitigate the community setbacks and to assure economic justification to the communities living around protected and natural areas.
Over the past years and to the date, Palitha has been dedicated to promote CBEs in various areas in Sri Lanka to ensure the community gets a tangible share of tourism income, alleviating poverty in tourism generating areas and thereby encouraging the community to support environmental and biodiversity conservation.