“The density of both natural and cultural assets in a small island is unique and, provide a strong foundation for an ecotourism industry, as it is relatively easy for a visitor to obtain a very rich and rewarding holiday experience in a short period of time.” 

Chandra de Silva
Founder President- Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka (ESSL)
Board Member – The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Washington DC.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Director/CEO – Ranweli Holiday Village


Sri Lanka’s planned tourism started in 1965 on a beach model which is generally referred to as sun, sea and sand tourism. This classical model of tourism development was used by global lending agencies – World Bank and IDB to provide employment and generate foreign exchange earnings in some third world countries where sandy beaches were identified as a resource.

Countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia which viewed beach tourism as a development tool on the mass market beach model were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the economic leakage of tourist dollars and the negative, social and environmental impacts of mass tourism.

Mounting criticism of the collateral damage caused by mass tourism led the World Bank and IDB , which had invested heavily in large tourism projects , to conclude that tourism is not a sound development strategy. In the late 1970s, both institutions closed down their tourism departments and ceased lending for tourism. They only moved back into providing loans for tourism projects in the 1990s, this time under the rubric of ecotourism – (“Protecting Eden” by Martha Honey, July/August 2003 in “Environment”.)

In this context it has to be noted that the Sri Lanka Tourist Board has recognized this new segment of tourism and changed Its slogan to “beyond beaches, culture, nature, adventure” which fits very well with ecotourism.

The devastation of the Tsunami made it even more important for Sri Lanka to develop nature and cultural tourism with these resources distributed inland away from the mass tourism destinations along the coast.

Sri Lanka is a tropical island with total area of 65,610 and a coastline extending over 1,585 km. Her natural environment is famed for its great scenic beauty and diversity. It ranges from clear blue coastal waters, coral reefs and sandy beaches on one hand to primeval forests, wetlands and mountain environments on the other. Super-imposed upon this are historic and cultural sites of antiquity going back to over 2000 years.

This rich blend of natural and cultural wealth represents a microcosm of many large countries. The density of both natural and cultural assets in a small island is unique and, provide a strong foundation for an ecotourism industry, as it is relatively easy for a visitor to obtain a very rich and rewarding holiday experience in a short period of time.

It was these striking attributes that, nearly 800 years ago, prompted Marco Polo, the famous European traveller and, perhaps, Sri Lanka’s first European tourist, to give expression to his wonderment in words that are still true today.

” On leaving the island of Andaman and sailing a thousand miles a little south of west, the Traveller reaches Ceylon, which is undoubtedly the finest island of its size in all the world”.


Tourism sector integrates a wide range of economic activities and is regarded as worlds’ largest industry. Over the last few decades, tourism has been one of the consistent growth industries. 808 Million took a holiday in a foreign country in 2005 (WTO press release26.1.06).

According to a paper prepared by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), for the world summit on sustainable development (WSSD) Johannesburg, 2002. in addition to strong overall expansion, the development of tourism is characterized by continuing geographical spread and diversification of tourist destinations. While in 1950 the top 15 tourist destinations, all in Western Europe and North America, attracted 97 per cent of the world’s total arrivals, by 1999 this figure had fallen by 35% to 62%, with market shares increasing for developing countries and economies in transition, particularly in South-East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America.


Some key qualitative development trends in tourism include: increased market segmentation; development of new forms of tourism, especially those related to nature, wildlife, rural areas and culture; and introduction of new programmes in traditional package tours. Consumers’ motivations and behaviour are increasingly characterized by a more selective choice of destination, greater attention to the tourism experience and its quality, and a greater sensitivity to the environment, traditional culture and local people at the destinations.

The increase of market share to nature and culture will be over 300 Million of international arrivals – taking 35percent of 808 million arrivals in 2005 as a base – Such large numbers engaging in nature and cultural tourism is bound to create massive problems of environmental degradation both physical and social if not managed with sensitivity and cultural integrity.

Consequently, in order to minimize these impacts authentic ecotourism which is regarded as the most sustainable component of sustainable tourism seems to be the answer. Sri Lanka must take advantage of this trend and be ready to cater for ecotourism which encompasses nature and cultural tourism.

Related article
What is ecotoursm?

Seventeen Ideas for Environmentally Friendly Living

Environmentally friendly living not only helps the planet (giving a lighter ecological footprint) but also provide you healthy, simple and more economical lifestyle. Just a few small changes in your day to day life will be helpful in addressing some of the global issues such as global warming and also local issues such as solid waste disposal, energy crisis, land degradation and water scarcity.

Compiled by Department of Forestry and Environment Science,
University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka
Released on World Environment Day 2007 (5 June 2007)
These ideas were launched on 5 June 2007 to School children and general public at Univesity of Sri Jayewardenepura. 


Idea you can implement NOW:

  • 1. Environmentally responsible living at Home
    Anyone can start environmentally friendly living by doing simple things at home such as switching off unnecessary lights and appliances, repair broken taps, saving water by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth etc.

Ideas for Reducing Garbage

    • 2. Think before you buy (Do not purchase unnecessary things)
      Reducing the amount we consume is the first step in reducing waste.
    • 3. Use of Reusable goods such as reusable bags –
      Find constructive uses for “waste” materials. You can make a fashion statement and design your own shopping bag. A small investment saving rupees and environment in the long term.
    • 4. Use a compost bin to recycle kitchen waste –
      Recycling will reduce the amount of garbage you dispose as a municipal waste.

About 85% of what we throw out from households are easily biodegradable waste which will provide us a fertilizer for our gardens at no cost passively. A compost bin takes up maximum 1 sq m from your garden space. These are available in plastic, concrete or metal in many sizes and to suit your budget.

  • By following “reduce, reuse, recycle” in that order of importance will reduce the waste you generate.
  • 5. Green living in the digital age –
    Use both sides of papers in printing/ photocopying, In printing documents, print only the portion that is essential after editing. Replace e-mail for normal mail wherever possible. Going digital saves time, paper, storing space and so much more easy to access past records and it is trendy !!.
  • 6. Buy local products (Consume Sri Lankan products) –
    This will reduce the foreign exchange, promote local industries and also this will reduce the emissions involve in transport.
  • 7. Bring lunch in lunch boxes –
    A very small investment for a lunch box is economical, healthier in the long run and reducing the use of non degradable lunch sheets.
  • 8. Give only Eco-friendly gifts –
    Make sure the gift you give will get used. Avoid unnecessary packaging and give green gifts: consumable gifts such as fruits, local gifts, CFL bulbs and rechargeable batteries.


Ideas for Energy Saving

  • 9. Use CFL bulbs –
    Compact fluorescent, spiral light bulbs are 75% more efficient than standard light bulbs
  • 10. Use Solar Power –
    Now easy to use solar panels are available for lighting, and also solar chargers are available for for electronic appliances.
  • 11. Energy saving on the road –
    Walking, cycling, using a car pool, fuel efficient cars, keeping the car well maintained, driving at a lower speed or taking public transport, all produce fewer emissions.
  • 12. Green buildings –
    Improve natural daylight, ventilation in workspace, home environment. Offices that are designed for air-conditioning create a sick environment since often these are not maintained. It is very much more economical, healthy and sensible to consider designs to optimize the use of natural lighting and ventilation.
  • 13. Switch off electrical appliances rather than keep them on the standby mode-
    Computers, monitors, printers, photocopy machines, televisions, VCRs, DVD players, and microwave ovens should be properly switched off to save energy.

Ideas for Reducing Land degradation

  • 14. Conserve soil –
    Do not expose soil in land development.
  • 15. Plant a tree –
    Trees absorb CO2 which will reduce global warming and it provides other benefits such as shelter, conservation of soil, retaining water, supply food, wood and fuelwood.

Ideas for Saving Water

  • 16. Harvest rain water –
    Put a barrel on your downspouts and use this water for watering plants, washing etc.
  • 17. Save water in the garden –
    Retain rain water in the garden by facilitating infiltration and reducing the surface flow. If you have to water the garden, do it during the coolest part of the day or at night to minimize evaporation.


Education – Scholarly articles on Forestry and Environment

Seventeen Ideas for Environmentally Friendly Living
Environmentally friendly living not only helps the planet (giving a lighter ecological footprint) but also provide you healthy, simple and more economical lifestyle.
These ideas were compiled by Department of Forestry and Environment Science and these will be launched on World Environment Day 2007 (June 5)

Sri Lanka Tourism An Opportunity to Change of Direction from Sun, Sea and Sand in the Aftermath of the Tsunami – by Chandra de Silva

Forest Management in Sri Lanka – Web site maintained by Dr Upul Subasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Department of Forestry and Environment Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

Research papers of Forestry and Environment Symposia 1995-2001
Abstracts of the research papers of the symposia covering various subjects in the fields of forestry, environment, biodiversity, natrue and natural resources

Code of Ethics for Research on Biological Diversity involving Access to Genetic Resources of Sri Lanka (2004) Document published by Biodiversity Secretariat, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka – read before conducting research invovling biodiverstiy of Sri Lanka

Preparation of a Country Environmental Profile for Sri Lanka for European Union (EU) Sri Lanka economic cooperation (2006) S.W. Newman and D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe – Full Paper

Environmental Impacts of Tsunami and it’s Rehabilitation– Abstract of the paper deliverd by Prof. D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe, Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Understanding Earthquakes and Tsunamis – by Prof Dhammika A. Tantrigoda, Department of Physics, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka Recent trends in forest management – Abstract of the theme talk delivered by Mr H M Bandarathilake, former Conservator of Forest and Director, Forest Resources Management Project

Pollution Control and Waste Management
– Abstract of the talk delivered by W L Sumathipala Open University of Sri Lanka and Director, National Ozone unit of Sri Lanka

Sustainable Agricultural Practices – Abstract of the talk delivered by P M Dharmasena, Field Crops Research and Development Institute, Mahailluppallama

Environmental Message by Arhat Mahinda – Message on nature conservation

Environmental Issues relating to proposed coal power plant at Kalpitiya

Air pollution caused by Vehicles

Key Environmental Issues in Sri Lanka

Challenges and opportunities in Forestry for the new millennium

Dynamics and Trends in U.S. Furniture Markets
– Presentation made by Prof. Richard Vlosky, Ph.D.
Director, Louisiana Forest Products Development Center, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center Louisiana, USA on 7 June 2005 at Ministry of Enterprise development and Investment promotion, to members of Wood Based Industrialists in Sri Lanka- Seminar organized by University of Sri Jayewardenpeura, Export Development Board, Ministry of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion and Wood Based Industrialists Association