The growth of international tourism in recent years has been dramatic. The World Tourist Organisation estimates that, during the next decade, the flow of tourists in the Asia-Pacific region would grow at an annual rate of some seven percent–double the global average.
Tourism is one of Sri Lanka's fastest growing industries with over 800 thousand foreign tourists visiting the country each year, although the tourist industry is presently facing a temporary set back and down by about 20% because of the activities of terrorists. It is a major source of foreign exchange, gross domestic product, income and employment. Most tourism trips are undertaken by international tourists for a range of reasons that include cultural, nature-related, historical and commercial purposes, on which Sri Lanka can offer much. Within this industry, ecotourism sector has emerged as a strong segment over this decade in Sri Lanka. The prospects for expansion of this trade, based particularly on international visitors, are significant.
Today, there is an alarming awareness regarding the urgent need for environmental protection in general and biodiversity protection in particular, biodiversity protection being a part and parcel of the broader environmental protection. Numerous opportunities and benefits can be derived by strategically integrating biodiversity and environmental conservation requirements with future tourism needs.
This M.Sc. programme deals with biodiversity and other natural resources, cultural heritage, local produce and traditional professions of Sri Lanka that interest an ecotourist. It would also show the importance of environment conservation and management in protecting biodiversity, natural resources and cultural heritage, which would in turn greatly benefit the ecotourism industry. Furthermore, it would discuss the negative impacts of ecotourism and how these could be mitigated. Identifying localities important for ecotourists and visiting those are an integral part of the programme. The programme will greatly benefit the young graduates who seek to engage in ecotourism as a profession, also those that are already in the tourist industry at managerial level, and particularly the graduate naturalists and guides who work freelance or in various tourist facilities. The programme will also be of immense importance to those that are interested in the conservation of biodiversity and other natural resources of Sri Lanka.