Durya de Silva
economy next –Sri Lanka’s new and somewhat controversial Tourism Minister, Diana Gamage, has decided to push ahead with plans to revitalize Colombo’s largely barren nightlife to attract tourists and boost consumption. ing.
Speaking to EconomyNext, Gammaju said Sri Lanka has plenty of cultural attractions to keep foreigners from Japan and China satiated, but cannot compete with the vibrant nightlife offered by its competitors. She gives visitors and locals alike limited options when it comes to things to do after dark, she said.
“If [tourists] I want to go shopping, but nothing is open at night. They dance, sing, listen to music, drink, eat… What is there in this country? Sri Lanka is a dead island at night,” she said Gamage.There is a shortage of entertainment options as locals with disposable income are also looking to foreign destinations to spend their money. Foreign currency is flowing out, she argued, because
“Sri Lankans also collect money and turn it into dollars and go to Malaysia, Singapore or Dubai,” she said.
“They give our money away to other countries. Why? Because there is nothing to enjoy in Sri Lanka.”
Her critics, who often categorize nightlife as casino and hooker culture, fail to see the big picture. It has more to do with giving, she said.
“There should be food stalls…shopping…music for people to enjoy.”
The legislator, formerly from the main opposition Samagi Jana Barawegaya (SJB), also said culture and religion should be kept separate from development.
“We should have our history, we should have our culture. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there and stop the development of the country.
“Every time this country has tried to develop in any way, people have brought up this religious and cultural issue … Today it drives us bankrupt,” she said. Gamage is also on a mission to change Sri Lanka’s attitude towards alcohol. The country’s current laws are too restrictive, she argues.
“Some people just want to go out for beer and can’t. We should be able to sell beer and wine in this country.”
Small restaurants in Sri Lanka are often easy to bribe local authorities and sell alcohol undercover. Beer licenses are rather expensive and it’s bad for business to turn down tourists all the time. Gamage believes licensing should be more accessible to small business owners, and Gamage believes it is never too late to capitalize on the economic benefits of having a full-fledged nightlife culture. Instead, people think it’s too narrow-minded to see it.
“I don’t understand why people can’t understand the opportunities we are missing. As you know, we call Sri Lanka a paradise. Where is paradise?”
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