Sri Lanka’s first national heritage trail inaugurated
by Arundathie Abeysinghe

Thanks to European Union funding, the Heritage Trails, a collection of walking trails that wind through the country over 300 kilometres, opened. The project is defined by signature experiences and sustainability that aim to develop the local economy while limiting its environmental impact.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The initial stage of the Heritage Trails, a collection of walking trails that cover more than 300 kilometres across Sri Lanka, opened a few days ago. EU Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Denis Chaibi, unveiled the signage at the trailhead.

For tourists visiting Sri Lanka, this will be a new experience by paving the way for them to discover the country’s varying landscapes, history, culture, food as well as friendly locals, while walking short distances or undertaking multi-day experiences.

According to the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the development of the Heritage Trails is part of the European Union’s € 5.7-million investment (Rs 1.3 billion) to assist the country’s tourism strategy, designed to expand its signature experiences while making them authentic, inclusive and environmentally sustainable.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also assisted the project with US$ 787,000 (Rs 160 million). The International Executive Service Corps, a US non-profit organisation that fosters private sector development in developing countries, will implement the project.

Over the few decades, the EU and USAID have provided economic as well as humanitarian aid to Sri Lanka.

The Heritage Trails project complements the trail network with initiatives that support tourism employment and entrepreneurship; this includes a grants programme to help establish and sustain small enterprises as well as train people to work in the tourism industry, including hotels.

Almost 50 per cent of tourists arriving in Sri Lanka are travellers from the EU, and arrivals have been growing steadily since October 2021.

The Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka tweeted that the Heritage Trails concept will have a positive impact for three reasons: it will help local and overseas travellers discover the island nation; it will be a more resilient project paving the way for everybody to enjoy the trails in a safe manner interacting with locals, including having a meal with them; and the most significantly, its main aspect will be sustainability, allowing the local economy to grow without increasing its environmental footprint.

The EU is steadfast in working closely with the Sri Lankan government. The trail experience is a good opportunity to explore and develop more signature experiences in evolving post-COVID-19 travel markets.