In spite of widespread political and economic constraints imposed on global tourism development during last few decades, world tourism industry has emerged as one of the fastest growing single industries in the world. Its performance has been highly acclaimed to the comparable performances of many other export industries during the same period. At present, global tourism industry represents around 11% of the world’s GDP, around 8% of global employment and around 9% of global wages. It is also the largest single employment generator of the world economy today. International visitors’ spending represents around 8% of world exports too. Moreover, tourism has been identified as one of the top five export categories in 83% of the total countries of the world.
With increasing recognition of the contributions of the tourism industry to economic development, Sri Lanka has made significant efforts to improve this industry during the last few decades. Today tourism has become one of the largest foreign exchange earners in Sri Lanka. It is estimated that the direct impact of tourism industry in Sri Lanka on GDP is more than 2 percent, but this could be much higher when considering both indirect and induced impacts.
Projected foreign tourist arrivals by 2016 will be 2.5 million tourists. Though the industry currently provides around 150,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities, this amount should go up to more than 500,000 by 2016. Nearly 20 percent of these forecasted employment opportunities are also management level employment.
It is worthwhile mentioning that many universities and educational institutions are currently conducting various postgraduate study courses/programmes in the fields of travel, tourism, hotel and hospitality management. Most of these universities/organizations are located in advanced countries or affiliated with these countries. On the other hand, in relation to the growing demand for these types of educational training programmes and also demonstrably inadequate educational facilities in Sri Lanka, a large number of Sri Lankan candidates are now seeking educational opportunities in foreign universities and consequently, a large sum of money is currently flowing out from the country.
Several national universities in Sri Lanka currently conduct few degree programmes in tourism studies (e.g. University of Rajarata, University of Sabaragamuwa, University of Kalaniya). Some of these national universities have also introduced tourism or tourism related study modules as a part of their postgraduate or master level programmes, but not yet introduced a postgraduate diploma or master level programmes specializing in tourism studies.