Engaging the rural communities of Sri Lanka in sustainable tourism

Richard Teare (Global University for Lifelong Learning, Banbury, UK)
Chandrarathne Bandara (Samadeepa Samaja Kendraya, Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka)
Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena (Chandi J. Associates Inc., St Catherines, Canada)

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

ISSN: 1755-4217

Publication date: 11 November 2013



This paper aims to explains how rural communities in Sri Lanka are responding to the challenges of high unemployment and low household income in a post-conflict society and to explore the possibilities for engaging rural communities in sustainable tourism development as part of their response.


The paper outlines how the South Asian Academy for Good Governance (SAAGG) is using action learning to enable participants to better utilize the resources available to them. It also draws on discussions with community leaders about harnessing this approach to industry training and the resource challenges arising from the Government's strategy for in-bound tourism.


The following are outlined: a framework for self-directed development in rural communities; why rural communities with a long tradition of subsistence farming are reluctant to participate in tourism development; and a community-driven approach to sustainable tourism that could yield benefits for the whole community and at the same time, preserve the traditional way of life.

Practical implications

The paper highlights: an approach to capacity building that assists in the creation sustainable micro enterprise; and the need for innovative thinking and action to mobilize rural communities in support of Sri Lanka's drive to become a leading Asian tourist destination.

Social implications

The study provides an example of sustainable development that could be replicated by rural communities in other locations. It also identifies the pivotal role of rural community members in providing an authentic tourism experience for international tourists and poses some questions about the best way(s) to engage with this group.


Indigenous culture and traditional ways of learning are drawn on to explain how subsistence communities can develop and implement a business approach that enables them to achieve greater self-reliance and financial independence. The paper also draws on the views of community leaders who are actively involved in facilitating community-based learning and development.



Teare, R., Bandara, C. and (Chandi) Jayawardena, C. (2013), "Engaging the rural communities of Sri Lanka in sustainable tourism", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 5 No. 5, pp. 464-476. https://doi.org/10.1108/WHATT-06-2013-0037

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