3.5 Vision Mannar
Vision Mannar is a district-wide business initiative that aims to develop boutique businesses based on Mannar’s famous products for tourist and export markets: mainly rice, dry fish, salt and palmyrah. Although Mannar was once famous for such products, the district did not benefit from this because of a lack of product development; branding and packaging; a reluctance to embrace new technology; and low standards in all stages of manufacturing and production. This project has many objectives – to value add to existing Mannar products, develop and promote high quality items for external markets, build the capacity of small and medium enterprises to produce export quality goods and to reduce regional poverty and high levels of unemployment (particularly for vulnerable groups). External funding of this project is essential.
Activities summary from the last visit to Sri Lanka
• Reviewed the extensive “Vision Mannar” proposal and budget completed by Diarne Kreltszheim, Diaspora Lanka volunteer, and Chamber staff in June last year. Also developed a modified and less funds-heavy version.
• Held several meetings with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to seek funds for the “Vision Mannar” proposal.
• Worked closely with Chamber staff to develop new projects and find funding.
• Wait for UNDP feedback. The Government and UNDP are currently in negotiations about project and funding guidelines so until the outcomes are known, local resourcing decisions cannot be made.
3.6 Mannar’s Community Tourism Strategy
Diaspora Lanka and the Mannar Chamber of Commerce are developing a community-based tourism strategy for Mannar. The strategy, positioned within the Government’s Tourism Strategy 2011-2016, includes a suite of 22 projects from substantial to modest that will affirm Mannar’s uniqueness, honour its rich cultural heritage and history and bring increased wealth to the people and businesses of Mannar District.
Activities summary from last visit to Sri Lanka
• Tauri Tampuu, a Diaspora Lanka volunteer from Estonia, has come for a three-month term to head a team that has been busy working on the strategy.
• Two major planning sessions were held, one at the start of the project and one two months later, to scope the strategy and identify the action projects.
• A high-level meeting was held with members of a World Bank consortium made up of the International Finance Corporation, TRC Tourism, Total Management Solutions Company, UrbanArc, Hitesh Mehta Design and Palmyrah House that had commenced exploring how to promote Mannar as a tourist destination. The consortium digested all our reports (including Mannarin Marumalarchi 2022, the town planning workshop and our Diaspora Fact-finding Mission reports) and met with us again to further discuss our tourism strategy and projects.
• The Chamber of Commerce and Diaspora Lanka were invited to present our strategy at a district-wide tourism meeting hosted by the Government Agent and the consortium.
• The consortium is finalising their report and recommendations. They indicated that there would be a role to play for the Chamber and Diaspora Lanka.
How you can help
• Explore investment opportunities in Mannar’s fledgling tourism industry at a time of minimal development and competition.
• Provide advice and expertise in sustainable tourism and support the tourism committee.
Through a number of consultations, residents have recognized the benefits of tourism for Mannar and the need to take control of it themselves in order to minimize any adverse effects. They preferred small-scale, culturally sensitive, economically sustainable and eco-friendly approaches to tourism over the “high end” imposed western resort-styled models. They also talked about a custodial approach to tourism in which they both preserved their heritage and shared their unique local knowledge with others. A set of values by which all tourism activity shall be assessed has been verbalized and agreed upon by residents:
• Affirms Mannar’s uniqueness
• Uses local resources (natural landscapes and products)
• Engages in eco sensitive development
• Provides affordable and readably accessible services for tourists
• Creates low-cost tourist investment opportunities for local people
• Offers rich cultural experiences
• Ensures local employment and community benefit.