The Tourism Leaders' Summit & International Research Symposium organized by the Department of Economics, University of Colombo (UOC) was successfully held on 28 September at the BMICH. The UNWTO World Tourism Day was celebrated, showcasing the theme 'Tourism for All – Promoting Universal Accessibility', while the International Research Symposium focused on 'Integration and Networking of Sri Lanka Tourism Development for All'.
The Chief Guest for this national summit was Minister of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs John Amarathunga, while the Guest of Honour was Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism P. M. Withana with many other distinguished invitees also present.
In accordance with the World Tourism Day celebrations, the organizing committee had lined up several events to take place around Colombo. The key highlight of the summit was the Life time Achievement Award, for the national contribution to tourism, bestowed on H. M. S. Samaranayake, and also the Excellence in Industry Award, given to P. M. Withana, for his dedicated service to Sri Lankan tourism development. Founder and Coordinator of the Tourism and Hotel Management Studies programme at UOC,
Dr. Suranga Silva was recognized by the Academic Excellence Award for his contribution and dedication to the area of tourism studies.
Public events of this series started from the first week of September. The first event took place at the Colombo 'Good Market' along with the participation of youth led organizations, which was open to the general public. Participants took advantage of the opportunity to study the concept 'Tourism for All' in-depth, getting connected with those concerned, exchanging views and interacting with many differently abled people, as well as finding ways to resolve issues of concern connected to the concept.
At the event, there was also an open microphone session encouraging the public to share their views and ideas on the 'Tourism for All' theme. There was an 'Art wall' prominently placed to express ideas by participants, and balloons branded with 'Tourism for All' messages, all of which was weaved into this event to provide a new experience to the public. The use of equipment for communities with disabilities, a photo booth with 'Tourism for All' props, a talk show by differently abled undergraduates of UOC, celebrity involvement, music and dance performances for all and a sign language session were the highlights of the event. This was held from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
An art competition, under the theme of 'Envisioning Tourism through Unseen Visuals', for communities with disabilities, took place on 17 September at Mount Lavinia Hotel, and it was a day full of joy for all the participants and a spectacular event to remember with the inclusion of a Colombo city tour. A forum on 'Accessible Tourism and Sustainable Development for All' was held on 19 September at Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute Colombo with the participation of eminent representatives of the industry. Panelists such as Lanka Sathosa Chairman Dr. Rohantha Athukorala, Dr. Suranga Silva, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Director Rathnayaka, Vipula Wanigasekara and many others were present.
A schools awareness programme, targeting ten schools in Colombo, and educating them on 'Tourism for All', was also held between 6 and 25 September. This focused on educating schoolchildren on concepts such as accessible tourism, responsible tourism and ethical tourism. Tourism Leaders' Summit & International Research Symposium 2016 also encompassed a Tree Planting, a Tourism Day Walk, a cricket match, a Tourism Day Quiz and electronic media discussion panels. These concepts were developed by the students of the UOC Department of Economics, Tourism and Hotel Management programme, to motivate future generations who are willing to study tourism as a subject and meet national demand for tourism industry professionals.