Registration of tourist drivers with SLTDA mandatory: Tourism Minister

  • Hands over 400 identity cards to taxi drivers of BIA, introduces new uniform
  • Travel counters system at airport will be axed; alternative program will be introduced

In a bid to streamline the airport taxi service and introduce standards, the Government has decided to make it mandatory for tourist drivers to register with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) and receive training.

Tourism Minister Prasanna Ranatunga handing over 400 identity cards to taxi drivers of the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) on Monday said they intended to form a dignified service and to ensure safety of travellers coming to Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, a separate identity card was issued for the tour guide drivers and a separate uniform has been introduced for them.

“The services provided at the airport is a critical factor for the development of the tourism industry as it is the first impression a visitor gets when they arrive. Going forward, we want to streamline the taxi service at the BIA. We will register all drivers in the tourism sector with the SLTDA in the future and provide the necessary training. Registration and training of tour taxi drivers will be made mandatory. We want our tour guides to be disciplined and we will continue to work to make it a dignified service,” Ranatunga said.

He said strict disciplinary action would be taken for those who violate the rules and regulations and their licenses will be revoked immediately.

The Minister also said that the travel counters system at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake would be brought to an end, describing it as a ‘mafia’.

“There are six counters for tourists arriving at the airport to hire vehicles for their visit to Sri Lanka. Depending on the political party that runs the Government gets the opportunity to occupy theses counters and exploit it. Big corporates that bought these counters through tenders took large sums as rent from drivers and the drivers who leased vehicles and used vehicles at travel counters became defaulters,” he pointed out.

Ranatunga said regularising this service was one of the first initiatives he undertook as the Tourism Minister and sought industry stakeholder recommendations.

“We intend to do away with the existing travel counter system and introduce an alternative standardised program. Until such time we will allow the members of the Association to operate the service,” he added.

Aviation State Minister D.V. Chanaka also agreed with the proposal made by Minister Ranatunga regarding the travel counters. “I think the proposal is very timely and thereby we will be able to eradicate the frauds, corruption and irregularities,” he said.

He also said the aim of the Government was to create a program where the benefits of any sector would flow from the top to the bottom.

Noting that the airport was not closed, he said it had limited the movement of passengers to ensure that BIA was free from COVID.

“As a result of the pandemic, all those engaged in the tourism industry are under severe economic pressure. But Sri Lanka can be happy as our Government has been able to contain the virus with strict and proactive measures. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries have commended these efforts. We are confident that Sri Lanka will be one of the top choices of traveller’s post-COVID,” Chanaka said.

Tourism Ministry Secretary S.Hettiarachchi, Airport and Aviation Services (Lanka) Ltd. Chairman Major General (Rtd) G.A. Chandrasiri, Airport and Aviation Services (Lanka) Ltd. Vice Chairman Rajeeva Sooriyaarachchi and Airport Tourist Drivers Association (ATDA) President Asanka Godakumbura also participated at the event.