Is Entrepreneurship a Key Driver of Tourism Growth?

“Tourism businesses are quite commonly initiated by entrepreneurs who play significant roles in modifying the supply of leisure and recreational opportunities...entrepreneurship also plays a very important role in earlier stages of tourism development, particularly in rural and ethnic communities where multinational firms and international hotel chains are less likely to invest.”
Janet Chang, Entrepreneurship in Tourism and Hospitality: The Role of SMEs
(Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research)

Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is filled with examples of entrepreneurs who took a leap of faith and moulded the future trajectory of the sector. Many of the SME tourism businesses established in the industry’s fledgling years have now grown to become industry leaders.

Even today, there are many entrepreneurs in the sector who are making an impact with their vision and passion for creating new experiences that resonate with the changing expectations of travellers. At Good Life X (GLX), we are thrilled to partner with these amazing individuals and their businesses. It gives us hope that the future of Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is being moulded by a group of responsible, sustainable and passionate entrepreneurs.

Here’s a glimpse into how small tourism businesses are making the shift and driving change in the industry.

Promoting Conscious Travel

With people becoming more aware of the impact of their consumption patterns and gravitating towards more ethical consumption, it is encouraging to see smaller tourism operators in Sri Lanka making an effort to create products and experiences that cater to conscious travellers.
Conscious travellers are those who are concerned about the impact of their actions, especially on the environment and communities that they visit.

Tour operators such as Detroves Travels and Rediscover Sri Lanka, who are part of our Digital Evolver Program, have made some inspiring progress in incorporating ethical and sustainable models into the products and experiences they offer guests.

Detroves Travels was built on the founding pillars of high-quality service and innovation. The team, led by Garwin Murray, runs a number of community-centric sustainability projects in Sri Lanka. The company offers guests experiential programs such as waterfall tour packages, tea tasting experiences and city walk tours, all of which are community-based and take guests away from the crowded and busy tourism hotspots.

Rediscover Sri Lanka is led by Chandima Wanasinghe who is passionate about sharing authentic experiences with those who visit the island. Having had the privilege of travelling extensively around the country, Chandima saw the potential of products that allow guests to get up-close and personal with local communities and experience something unique and exciting - away from over crowded mass tourism destinations. The team at Rediscover Sri Lanka has seen first hand how happy guests are when they have an authentic experience with locals, and are exposed to new cultures and ways of life. The economic benefits reaped by the community is also a large part of the reason that the team is so passionate about these initiatives.

Taking on Conservation Responsibilities

Many of the operators we work with are extremely conscious about the impact of tourism on the environment, as well as the need to support conservation efforts. EcoGrip, Summer Explorers Pvt Ltd, Jungle Beach Camp Ahungalla, Eco Team and Gileemale Retreat have demonstrated through several aspects of their business operations that conservation should be a priority for all tourism organizations, as the industry is so heavily dependent on the natural ecosystems and resources. Interestingly, these businesses have also incorporated conservation initiatives into the tourism offering - encouraging guests to participate in conservation efforts.

Krishani and Sanka Samaraweera of Summer Explorers Pvt Ltd feel very strongly about the misuse of natural resources, environmental pollution and the cause of conserving wildlife. They follow Leave No Trace principles for sustainable tour operations and actively involve their guests in conservation activities. The business donates 10% of its profits to the Summer Explorers Clean & Green Fund, which is used for numerous environmental conservation and community development activities. Also encouraging guest participation in conservation efforts, adventure water sports company Eco Grip is the only organization of its kind in Sri Lanka that gives customers an opportunity to participate in plastic fishing (the act of collecting free-floating plastics while kayaking). The team also conducts River clean ups to remove plastics from Sri Lanka’s rivers.

Eco Team are strong supporters of conservation efforts and educating tourists on the cultural nuances and sensitivities of the places they visit. Co-Founders Anuruddha Bandara and Migara Perera, pioneered Mobile Tented Safari Camps in Sri Lanka in 1998 with the introduction of the revolutionary Mahoora Luxury Safari Camps. Today, it’s the first-ever mobile, tented luxury safari camp in the world to be completely carbon-neutral.

Incorporating conservation and sustainability efforts into their operations, Founder Ishantha Dassanayake and the team at Gileemale Retreat have designed a number of initiatives that focus on environmental conservation. These initiatives include, rainwater harvesting, the use of renewable energy at the property, organic gardening, sustainable gem mining, and biodiversity conservation. Barbara Kainz, Founder of Jungle Beach Camp Ahungalla, too has made a conscious bid to preserve and protect the naturally beautiful coastal region her property is located in. As a result, Jungle Beach Camp is made from all natural materials and is completely free of plastic.

Digital Adoption

In addition to making conscious decisions to have a positive impact on the environment and community, many of these small operators are also showing great progress in adopting technology and digital tools to improve efficiency and reduce negative environmental impact.

Whether it is conducting all operations digitally and going paperless to help conserve trees, or using digital tools to generate awareness about their brand, their value drivers and the causes they support, businesses such as Nandana Tea Factory, Infinity Vacations Inc. and The Travel Concierge are great examples of organizations making a change through digital adoption.

Running a completely paperless and plastic-free operation, Infinity Vacations goes a step further by providing their customers with smartphones for the duration of their stay in Sri Lanka. This use of digital tools helps the organization cater to the needs of the modern traveller and communicate more effectively with customers.

Nandana Tea Factory is a tea experience provider that is growing in popularity with travellers. The business has embraced digital effectively so that it can reach a larger global audience. The team at Nandana Tea Factory also aims to educate small tea holders in the surrounding area to develop their digital presence and strategies through their Ladalu Mahimaya initiative.

Recognizing the importance of having a great online presence, The Travel Concierge took on the challenge of revamping their website to cater to the needs of the B2C travel market, and to interact better with potential customers. The new website will also assist the business to grow into new markets and expand their footprint.

GLX is currently working with all businesses featured in this article to help them strengthen their sustainability focus and utilize digital in powerful and meaningful ways so that they can make an impact on Sri Lanka’s tourism industry and help shape the future of the sector.

Is Entrepreneurship a Key Driver of Tourism Growth?