The tourism hotel industry yesterday welcomed the decision taken by the authorities to clamp down on hotel operators using the ‘Foreigners Only’ tag on their establishments saying that apartheid cannot be tolerated in this country.
The practice of apartheid in small time hotels, motels, guest houses, restaurants and so on is widespread in many tourist hot spots throughout the country starting from the Deep South to the Eastern Coast, the hill country and so on but little or no action was taken to stamp it out, President of the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) Shanthi Kumar said.
In most of these errant tourist establishments it is believed that the investor was most probably a foreigner and hence the ‘foreigners only’ tag, he said.
‘Foreigner or otherwise this shameful practice cannot be allowed in this country since it is against the law and the Constitution, Kumar said.
Sources in the tourist hotel industry said that those behind the ‘foreigner’s only tag’ had their personal clandestine agendas among other issues.
Several of these places are known to encourage drug abuse, prostitution, sex parties, gambling and even paedophile activities and so they simply would prefer to keep it the ‘foreigner’s only’ way, the sources said.
‘Not only that many restaurants and bars also refuse to serve local guests who are forced to go under much embarrassment in their own country.
This apartheid style of operation has been in existence for nearly four decades ever since the country started taking in tourists in the late 1970’s with the introduction of the open economy system’, they said.
They said that this practice is mostly rampant in tourist spots such as Unawatuna-Galle, Hikkaduwa, Mirrisa, Weligama, Negombo, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.
In 1988 one such ‘foreigner’s only’ sea-side resort in Wadduwa was raided after it was discovered that this particular facility was operating a baby farm where Sri Lankan infants were sold to foreign couples.
At the time of the raid, where the writer participated as a journalist, 22 new born infants and a equal number of mothers were found in a make-shift ward in the hotel and a host of foreign couples who were the prospective buyers of the children. The ‘foreigner’s only’ tag was the appropriate cover for this sordid scandal.
The exposure created a huge outcry in the country and subsequent investigations revealed that the Wadduwa hotel was infact the cradle of the baby farm racket that had spread throughout the country at that time.
On Tuesday this week the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) vowed to crackdown on these errant establishments with a stern warning that licences of such places would be cancelled.
In a statement, the SLTDA said that they had received complaints regarding discriminatory practices followed by some tourist establishments against Sri Lankan citizens.
“Our Constitution affords the equal right to all citizens; where no person shall, on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste, sex, or any such grounds, be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction, or condition concerning access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, places of public entertainment and places of worship,” the statement said.
It added that SLTDA would suspend or cancel the licence of such establishments, including informing travellers and notifying online travel agencies to abstain from taking bookings if any spots were found to have been discriminatory.
“Domestic tourists had stood by the tourism industry through difficult times. “It’s our citizens who have supported our industry right throughout. For that, as industry stakeholders, we should be grateful.
At the same time, we urge domestic travellers also to ensure that the tourist property is well taken care of, that we adhere to the hotels requirements and be brand ambassadors for the industry and country. It is our duty to support an important industry sector recover and prosper’, the statement said.
Tourist establishments could make complaints against such guests who neither care for the property nor adhere to stated requirements of the establishments and necessary action against such guests”, the SLTDA said.