Sustainable Tourism Unit (STU)
Message from Coordinator
The Sustainable Tourism Unit at the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo (UOC-STU) aspires to play a pivotal role as a leading strategic knowledge partner for sustainable tourism development in Sri Lanka through the creation, development and dissemination of evidence-based knowledge and data-driven information to industry professionals, policy & decision-makers and to the other stakeholders.
As the first-ever Sustainable Tourism Unit established under the Faculty of Arts in national universities in Sri Lanka, our unique position and vantage point allow us to harness the diverse knowledge, expertise and skills of thirteen departments and several teaching Units offering courses in the field of Social Sciences, enabling us to create significant contribution for sustainable tourism development.
Social Sciences must be considered as a key knowledge contributor for achieving sustainable tourism development. They provide essential insights into human behavior, cultural dynamics, and economic factors that underpin sustainable tourism such as tourists’ behavior aligning with their preferences, community engagement and participation in sustainable tourism, assessing the industry’s socioeconomic effects, designing policies for equitable benefits, inclusive growth, integrated approach with ethical consideration, ensuring tourism’s long-term sustainability and so on.
We firmly believe in the fundamental importance of knowledge in raising awareness. At the heart of our mission is the motto “Wisdom Enlightening for Sustainable Tourism,” symbolizing our dedication to serving as a catalyst for the integration of industry best practices and global standards into our national tourism landscape and way forward for sustainable tourism development.
Our ultimate goal is to establish the UOC-STU as the premier center of excellence in fostering innovation, sharing evidence-based knowledge, creating a reliable platform for meaningful dialogues and materializing the results-driven actions to drive sustainable tourism development by taking Sri Lanka Tourism to the pinnacle of global tourism.
Wisdom Enlightening for Sustainable Tourism Development
Sustainable tourism, as defined by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), refers to tourism that considers its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts while addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment, and host communities (UNWTO, 2022). Sustainable tourism initiatives must align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, a set of 17 interconnected goals established by the United Nations in 2015 to eradicate poverty, protect the planet, and promote prosperity by 2030.
The travel and tourism industry play a pivotal role in global economic growth. In 2019, it contributed a staggering $2.9 trillion to the world GDP, constituting 11% of the global economy. This sector accounts for approximately 30% of service exports and generates over 350 million jobs, making up almost 10% of global employment. It serves as a prominent economic force in both developed and developing nations, experiencing substantial growth. Sri Lanka, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw tourism contribute nearly $4 billion in 2018, constituting 5-7% of its GDP, 23% of foreign exchange earnings, and providing employment for over 450,000 people, establishing it as a critical industry for the country’s prosperity.
However, the unchecked expansion of the tourism sector has faced significant scrutiny due to unsustainable development practices, resulting in adverse effects on the environment & ecological balance, degradation of cultural heritage while increasing the level of poverty and marginalized communities.
It is imperative for Sri Lanka, a highly sought-after tourist destination known for its natural beauty and cultural diversity, to align its tourism development with the SDGs outlined in the Global 2030 Agenda. This alignment is essential not only for the sustainable growth of tourism but also to elevate Sri Lanka’s tourism industry to global prominence. Striking a balance between inclusive and integrated economic growth and environmental conservation is paramount for the long-term success of the tourism sector.
Contributions of STU
- Establishing the Sustainable Tourism Unit (STU) at the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo is to cater a dynamic and evidence-based knowledge platform incorporating different dimensions of sustainable tourism development applying through an interdisciplinary approach that engages different subject disciplines of not only the various departments belong to the Faculty of Arts but also all means of evidence-based knowledge contributions from different faculties of the University of Colombo. The STU also aspires to establish a robust multistakeholder dialogue platform that effectively engages stakeholders for successful sustainable tourism practices and implementation in Sri Lanka
- The STU is to empower industry stakeholders by enhancing their knowledge, skills and competencies for fostering sustainable practices and successful implementation in the tourism industry.
- The STU aims to forge partnerships with national bodies like SLTDA and other organizations/authorities and also with international organizations such as GSTC, UNWTO, WTTC, and the other related international organizations to ensure a productive knowledge partnership for sustainable tourism while offering learning opportunities for the students of the university to apply sustainable practices, expanding their professional networks.
- The STU’s role also spans local, regional and national levels in providing right awareness, information, training, and consultations. Its contribution is to ensure a well-effective people-centric and inclusive tourism development through a well balance approach between the local wisdom and modern global technology.
- The Unit is committed, through multidisciplinary educational and action-oriented research work, training and consultancies to the direct involvement in and promotion of sustainable tourism development activities, through enhancing global recognition of STU at international sustainable tourism development forums.
Providing outcomes-based learning & research, knowledge-driven innovation and results-focused training to be the Center of Excellence in Asia for sustainable tourism development.
With academic excellence and professional recognition, the mission is to empower learners to deliver cutting-edge contribution to spearhead the accomplishing of sustainable tourism development by taking Sri Lanka Tourism to the pinnacle of global tourism.
The STU is to disseminate the industry-interactive and application-oriented knowledge to enhance the required skills with necessary practices and applications considering global best practices to achieve sustainable tourism development in Sri Lanka through effective industry & academic partnerships in nationally and internationally.
- To make the students of tourism study programmes of the Faculty of Arts involved with the activities of STU to provide evidence-based knowledge contribution to achieve sustainable tourism development in Sri Lanka.
- Develop tailor-made and regular training courses to empower all stakeholders of Sri Lanka Tourism for achieving sustainable tourism development in Sri Lanka.
- To create the updated databases useful for successful implantation of sustainable tourism development at local, regional and national levels.
- To conduct multi and inter-disciplinary action-oriented research, seminars, workshops, conferences and consultancies with the collaboration of the other faculties of the University of Colombo, also with the other universities & higher educational institutes, non-governmental organizations and other related organizations on sustainable tourism practices.
- To create a knowledge platform for industry-policy dialogues among key stakeholders to design the results-base policy measurers and effective management strategies for Sustainable Tourism Development in Sri Lanka
- Conduct awareness programmes for communities and the other stakeholders to ensure their effective participation for sustainable tourism development.
- To perform as a main training partner for national sustainable tourism certifications in Sri Lanka
Certificate Courses (In Progress)
Professional/Advanced Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Destination Management
Professional/Advanced Certificate in Sustainable Travel Operation and Management
Professional/Advanced Certificate in Sustainable Tourism Policy and Application
Professional/Advanced Certificate in Tourism Entrepreneurship and Business Development
Diploma Courses (In Progress)
Higher Diploma in Sustainable Tourism Development and Application
Degree Programme (In Progress)
Special Degree in Sustainable Tourism and Hospitality Management (120 Credits)
Postgraduate Courses (In Progress)
Masters in Sustainable Tourism Development (One-Year)
University of Colombo establishes Sustainable Tourism Unit to empower Sri Lanka’s tourism sector
The Faculty of Arts at the University of Colombo inaugurated its Sustainable Tourism Unit (STU) on 2 October 2023 at the Senate Hall, College House; marking a significant milestone for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.
The Chief Guest of the inauguration ceremony was University of Colombo Vice Chancellor Senior Prof. H.D. Karunaratne and the Guest of Honour was University of Colombo Dean Faculty of Arts Senior Prof. L. Manawdu.
Aligned with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the establishment of the UOC-STU signifies a paradigm shift from unsustainable practices towards integrated, inclusive, and eco-conscious tourism development in Sri Lanka.
The unit’s motto, ‘Wisdom Enlightening for Sustainable Tourism’, encapsulates its commitment to integrating industry best practices and global standards into Sri Lanka’s tourism landscape.
The primary objective of the UOC-STU is to serve as a knowledge hub, offering evidence-based insights, outcome-oriented training, public awareness campaigns and intellectual contributions to drive inclusive and integrated sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka.
Vice Chancellor Senior Prof. H.D. Karunaratne said the UOC-STU will contribute significantly to capacity-building endeavours to cater to the development of the booming tourism industry in Sri Lanka.
“Sri Lanka’s tourism product still needs improvement in many fields to reap its full potential. I believe the new UOC-STU will be able to expand human resource development, product development and entrepreneurship development to contribute actively to the tourism industry of Sri Lanka and the overall economic growth in a sustainable way,” he added.
The Vice-Chancellor also commended the leadership and immense contribution of Prof. Suranga Silva, Coordinator of the Sustainable Tourism Unit and the first-ever Tourism Professor in Sri Lanka to the University of Colombo and the industry development.
Dean Faculty of Arts Senior Prof. L. Manawdu said by leveraging the expertise of 13 departments and multiple teaching units in the Social Sciences, the STU is poised to make a substantial impact on sustainable tourism development.
He also hinted that the UOC-STU unit will likely be converted into the 14th department of the University of Colombo, under the leadership of Prof. Silva.
Sustainable Tourism Unit Coordinator Prof. D.A.C. Suranga Silva expressed his vision for the UOC-STU, under the direction of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo and the recommendation of the Dean, Faculty of Arts, emphasising the unit’s unique initiation and commitment.
“The ultimate aspiration of UOC-STU is to emerge as the premier centre of excellence, fostering innovation, sharing knowledge, and catalysing actions to propel Sri Lanka Tourism to the forefront of the global stage. This milestone inauguration sets a promising trajectory for the future of sustainable tourism in Sri Lanka,” he said.
Silva also emphasised the pivotal role of Social Sciences in understanding human behaviour, cultural dynamics and economic factors underpinning sustainable tourism.
An Industry-Policy and Diplomatic Dialogue themed ‘The Future of Wisdom Enlightening for Sustainable Tourism Development’ was also held concurrently at the launch to mark the UNWTO World Tourism Day Celebration 2023.
The panel featured University of Colombo Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences Professor Emeritus Sarath Kotagama, Honorary Consul of Belgium in Maldives Dr. Mariyam Shakeela, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority Chairman Priantha Fernando, Asian Development Bank Private Sector Development Unit Head Santhosh Pokharel and the session was moderated by the University of Colombo visiting lecturer and Shangri-La Hambantota Learning and Development Manager and Head of Department Damsi Dharmaratne.
The dialogue shed light on striking a balance between reaping economic benefits from tourism and safeguarding the environment, as well as supporting local communities, to encourage a more conscientious and mutually beneficial form of travel.
The inauguration of the UOC-STU recognised the critical importance of evidence-based knowledge, data-driven insights, stakeholder awareness, and industry implementation of sustainable tourism practices and development in Sri Lanka.
Many international Universities from the UK, Italy, India, South Africa, Turkey, Portugal and Bangladesh sent their best wishes to the newly introduced UOC-STU.
International Journal of Sustainable Tourism
Symposium Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism 2022, Jointly Organized by Ministry of Environment and University of Colombo
Top50 Global Economic Forum 2023, International Symposium Empowering Women for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development Jointly Organized by Women in Management & Alumni ATEHM, University of Colombo
Further Details : www. uoctourismconference.org
International Journal of Sustainable Tourism (IJST) – Volume 01, Issue 01, 2024
An Outcomes-Based Training Programme for Provincial Officers on: Sustainable Tourism Destination Management and Practices Jointly Organized by UNDP and SLTDA, Conducted by Tourism Studies Programmes Department of Economics, University of Colombo
Symposium Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism 2022, Jointly Organized by Ministry of Environment and University of Colombo
A COMPARATIVE CASE STUDY ON PROMOTING HOT WATER WELLS INTO HOT WATER POOLS
A CASE STUDY OF IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL OF PROMOTING AMPARA DISTRICT AS A SUSTAINABLE TOURISM DESTINATION IN SRI LANKA
Hasareli Hirunika, Sampath Siriwardena
CONSERVATION THROUGH BENEFIT SHARING: A CASE STUDY IN THE WEWALKELE ENVIRONMENTAL SENSITIVE AREA IN KALA OYA BASIN, WANATHAVILLUWA, PUTTALAM
Weerasinghe M.A.M.T., Jayasinghe L.D.C.
A CASE STUDY ON COOPERATIVE APPROACH FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SEMBUWATTA LAKE
Rathnapriya KPPV, Liyanage HN, Guruge TPGWD
A CASE STUDY ON THE ISSUES FACED IN PROMOTING RITIGALA, SRI LANKA AS A NATURE TOURISM DESTINATION
SUSTAINABLE CULINARY TOURISM PROMOTION: IN THE CASE OF ELLA SPICE LAND
Gayathri P., Krishantha Ganeshan
A CASE STUDY ON WINDSURFING AND KITE SURFING AT KALPITIYA, SRI LANKA: DEVELOPING A LEGAL FRAMEWORK
Jayasinghe L.D.C., Weerasinghe M.A.M.T.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT ON WILDLIFE TOURISM IN THE YALA NATIONAL PARK WITH SPECIAL CONCERN TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
A CASE STUDY ON SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY TOURISM PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT IN TRINCOMALEE, SRI LANKA
Duminduhewa C., Vithanage VKM
A CASE STUDY ON PROMOTING SRI LANKAN TRADITIONAL RICE IN JETWING KADURUKETHA
BIODIVERSITY AS A USP TO PROMOTING MEDICAL TOURISM IN SRI LANKA
A CASE STUDY OF AGRO TOURISM POTENTIALS IN SRI LANKA: SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE UDUGAMA VILLAGE
Thilini Dilanka Kumari Ekanayake
A CASE STUDY OF COMMUNITY TOURISM AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
Mohamed Firdouse M.G.
A CASE STUDY ON NEW DIMENSIONS OF COMMUNITY-BASED TOURISM PROTECTING PURPLE-FACED LANGUR (PFL) AND ASSOCIATED BIODIVERSITY