National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme (NSTCS) awarded to 100 SMEs in the Tourism sector in Sri Lanka

Certification scheme to promote a more sustainable tourism sector

May 29, 2024
Outstanding award recipients

Pictured here: Outstanding award category winners receiving their respective awards from the high-level representatives present this morning. Outstanding Sustainable Concept award- Wild Glamping, Gal Oya; Best SDG Compliance Award- Earth Bound Creations, Udaperadeniya; Best Sustainable Tourism Project Award- The Barnhouse Studio, Panadura

UNDP Sri Lanka

29 May 2024, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The National Sustainable Tourism Certification Scheme (NSTCS) is a process that recognizes and promotes destinations that are committed to environmental, social and economic sustainability in Sri Lanka. In line with the overall strategy of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka the certification scheme was established in 2018 in line with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council guidelines. Over 100 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the tourism sector were awarded their certifications this morning, with the presence of Hon. Minister Harin Fernando Ministry of Tourism, Lands, Youth Affairs and Sports; Mr. H.M.B.P. Herath, Secretary, Minister of Tourism and Lands;  Ms. Azusa Kubota, UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka; Mr. Priantha Fernando, Chairperson – SLTDA; Mr. R. Sariffodeen, Director General – SLTDA; and other high-level dignitaries from the tourism and development sector.  

The certification scheme aims to involve all tourism stakeholders- government agencies and the private sector, working in partnership to move towards a more sustainable tourism sector in Sri Lanka in line with national priorities. Following the successful completion of the pilot phase in 2019 for the accommodation sector, in 2023 a call for applications was opened for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the sector. 

According to the ADB, Small and medium enterprises play a vital role in the country’s economy, contributing more than 50% of the GDP in Sri Lanka. Around 75% of these enterprises belong to the tourism sector. These include hotels and homestays (33%), spas and ayurveda (18%). Souvenirs, handicrafts, cafes, food and beverages make up most of the remaining enterprises.

While tourism growth brings positive outcomes for countries, there could also be negative impacts, with unplanned tourism creating specific challenges. Against this background, the Government of Sri Lanka with its ambitious growth targets of tourist arrivals, is working towards to continue in offering positive tourism experiences ensuring long term sustainability for the country. 

Commenting on the certification scheme, Mr. Priantha Fernando, Chairperson of SLTDA stated, “Our commitment to sustainability is not just about meeting the demands of today’s consumers; it is about securing a better future for our nation and the generations to come. What is good for our nation, our future, and our customers is intrinsically linked thus, let us continue to build a sustainable, prosperous, and vibrant tourism industry in Sri Lanka.”

This programme involves a series of steps to assess and validate a destination's efforts in various sustainability aspects with a special focus on sustainable use of biodiversity including reducing threats to the environment and promoting environmentally friendly practices. 

The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) is a UNDP managed global collaboration to develop and implement an evidence-based methodology that improves biodiversity outcomes using finance and economics. In Sri Lanka, working together with the Government of Sri Lanka, BIOFIN works on implementing three (3) finance solutions for the sustainable use and management of biodiversity; the development of a Green Lending framework, a sustainable certification for the tourism industry following the establishment of the Sustainable Tourism Unit (STU), and payment for ecosystem services in the mini-hydro power generation sector.

Highlighting UNDPs role, Ms. Azusa Kubota, Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka noted, “Biodiversity must be at the heart of Sri Lanka’s recovery trajectory, from nature-based solutions with investments to let biodiversity flourish, creating jobs and opportunities for communities to secure a sustainable future. Through the success of such certification schemes in the tourism sector, UNDP reaffirms its commitment to working together with all stakeholders in the sector to demonstrate how nature-positive economies can work for people and the planet.”

The national certification scheme will mitigate the negative impacts of tourism but also incentivize tourism businesses to transition toward environmentally and socially responsible business practices. Importantly, generating income, providing skilled employment opportunities, preserving local ecosystems and cultures, and creating positive experiences for local people, tourism companies, and tourists themselves.


Highlevel representatives at the awards ceremony

High-level attendees at the NSTCS SME Awards Ceremony

UNDP Sri Lanka