Colombo, Feb 2 (NewsWire) – The Ambassador of the EU Delegation in Sri Lanka, H.E. Denis Chaibi together with Chairperson, Sri Lanka Tourism, Ms. Kimarli Fernando, launched the initial stage of the island’s first ever long distance walking trail, with the unveiling of the signage at the trailhead.
The Heritage Trails project identifies a collection of destination-based walking trails across the island starting with a more than 300-kilometer walking path traversing the hills of Sri Lanka. The interconnecting trail network will be the first of a series of walking trails that allow visitors to discover the varying terrain, history, culture, food and local community by foot, in short sections or as part of a multi-day experience.
The development of the trails is part of the EU’s 5.7 million Euro investment (1.3 billion Rupees) in support of Sri Lanka’s national tourism strategy – including the development of signature experiences that are authentic, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) committed a further $787,000 (approximately LKR 160 million) to support the initiative. The project is implemented by the International Executive Service Corps.
Sharing his views while walking the trail, Ambassador Chaibi said, “As an avid biker, I’ve been all over the country and am amazed by the tourism potential here – particularly when you take the time to get off the beaten track. Sri Lanka has suffered multiple crises since 2019, leaving the tourism industry and the people dependent on it very vulnerable. The European Union is committed to working closely with the Government of Sri Lanka. This trail experience allows us to explore the development of more signature experiences that align with the emerging post-Covid travel trends. We are also delighted that USAID has joined with us in this effort.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the overall project, Hon. Minister of Tourism, Prasanna Ranatunga said, “We value the support extended to us by the European Union and the United States to this vital sector of our economy and are confident that programs like this one will help some of the most vulnerable businesses stay in operation and safeguard the livelihoods of the many individuals directly and indirectly employed in the sector. Travelers from the European Union account for nearly half of all tourists visiting Sri Lanka, and we are happy to witness a continued growth in arrivals from the EU since October 2021.”
USAID Mission Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Reed Aeschliman said, “For over 60 years, USAID has invested in Sri Lanka’s growth. We are excited to partner with the Government of Sri Lanka and the European Union to shine the spotlight on Sri Lanka’s natural heritage and support the tourism sector with a long-term, sustainable initiative.”
The Heritage Trails project complements the foundation of the trail network with initiatives supporting tourism employment and entrepreneurship. These include a grants program to help establish and sustain small enterprises that can support Sri Lanka’s new signature experiences, as well as training for tourism workers, owners, and managers.
The European Union and USAID have provided economic and humanitarian support to Sri Lanka for decades. The Heritage Trails initiative is one component of these longstanding partnerships.