A series of sudden transfers and promotions which has been brought in by the Senior Management of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau (SLTPB) is set to create adverse ripples in the trade and affect the country’s struggling tourism sector.
A new allocation of regions has been created with so called promotions of five Assistant Directors to the post of Regional Heads, whilst some have been appointed as Junior Managers, all of which are not approved posts according to the Scheme of Recruitment (SOR) of the SLTPB .
Some of the said Assistant Directors and the Junior Marketing Officers have been provided these lucrative posts with no consideration taken regarding previous experience and proven track records.
Shockingly some very competent senior professionals who have been handling the main international markets with remarkable success have been grossly discriminated by being removed from their posts.
The classification of a main market is solely based on the number of tourist arrivals that are generated.
These purported changes have been mooted towards benefiting certain favorite individuals while discriminating a few highly competent officers at the Marketing Division of SLTB and creating a valid reason for Senior Management to make beneficial overseas trips for their personal gain.
The Senior Management of the SLTPB has affected the said changes in quite an arbitrary manner, especially when the industry is slowly recovering after the deadly bomb attacks of 21 April 2019.
This is when especially the established trade relations with the foreign counterparts facilitated by the now affected Market Officers are of prime importance in sustaining the industry.
A senior industry professional speaking on condition of anonymity said “The experience and exposure in the main market is a key criteria that needs to be considered in allocation of the regions and if a person handling a particular market possesses proficiency in the relevant language, it is considered to be an added advantage.”
However this aspect has now purposefully been neglected.
Many industry professionals have also now begun raising questions as to why these sudden changes are brought in on the verge of the winter season and lay suspicion if it is yet another attempt to bring disrepute to the current Yahapalanaya government.
This move is now viewed more as a ploy at providing favours to certain political stooges of the former Rajapaksa led regime who are capable of using funds allocated for tourism promotions on the ongoing political campaigns.
It is alleged that one Assistant Director is reported to be in the center of many fraudulent acts committed during the Rajapaksa regime. He is a close ally of fugitive and ex Russian Ambassador Udayanga Weeratunga and is a key suspect involved in many controversies that took place during his tenure as the Market Officer of Russian and CIS countries under the Rajapaksa watch.
The newly appointed Marketing Director, who has been parachuted to the marketing division facilitated by a notorious chairman of the past regime, is said to be the mastermind of these sinister moves in return for undue favors expected from his now newly promoted appointees.
In a separate incident the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau has transferred its well experienced Marketing Manager to the Research Department and instead has appointed a lady replacement with barely a year and a half experience in the job.
Sources close to the Minister of Tourism John Amaratunga when contacted were shocked and surprised that these decisions had been made without the consent of other Ministerial Officers and bypassing administrative rules and regulations of the Ministry.
“We will seriously investigate this matter” promised a Tourism Industry Ministerial Official.