COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will focus on sending more skilled manpower to the Kingdom and inviting Saudis to tap into its family tourism market, Colombo’s new consul in Jeddah has said, in a fresh bid to help kickstart its struggling economy.
Remittances and tourism are the main sources of the island nation’s foreign inflows.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on Sri Lanka’s economy, which has been deprived of its tourism revenues while workers’ remittances from abroad have fallen sharply.
“I will be concentrating on the export of skilled manpower to Saudi Arabia, since Sri Lanka is more dependent on its migrant workers remittance to its national treasury,” Falah Al-Hebshi Mowlana, the incoming head of Sri Lanka’s consulate general in Jeddah, told Arab News earlier this week.
He said that there are nearly 500,000 Sri Lankan nationals already living and working in the Kingdom, mostly in Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah, making Saudi Arabia one of Colombo’s main sources of remittance inflows.
Colombo’s new consul in Jeddah commits to focus on diversifying bilateral trade relations.
Mowlana would also seek to attract more Saudi travelers, especially families, to visit Sri Lanka, with the island nation declaring 2022 the “Visit Sri Lanka Year.”
As Sri Lankan ministers seek to exploit its tourism offering, Mowlana said: “Sri Lanka is an ideal destination for a family holiday for Saudis, since they wish to travel with their families.”
With its famed palm-fringed white beaches and seaside resorts offering water sports, UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites, and rich wildlife on both land and water, Sri Lanka is popular among family travelers.
While encouraging more Saudis to make the country their family holiday destination, Mowlana is also set to work on attracting Sri Lankan visitors to the Kingdom, especially those traveling for religious tourism.
Improving bilateral trade ties will also be high on Mowlana’s agenda as he will take office in the Kingdom’s commercial hub.
Trade relations between Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia are currently based on two commodities — tea and petroleum — and valued at $300 million.
“We can do much in this area after identifying our pluses and minuses and forge ahead,” he said, adding he would organize delegation exchanges to find new avenues for cooperation.
“With the help of the Ministry of Commerce, Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, and the Exports Development Board, I will arrange a trade delegation from Sri Lanka. I will coordinate with the Saudi authorities to reciprocate with a similar delegation to Colombo to identify new areas of cooperation in trade and investment.”