One and two-day tours kick off

Creating one and two day tours was a Mannar Tourism Strategy imperative. This came to fruition when organisers designed an exciting, culturally-based tour to Mannar’s famed Giants’ Tank.

Four Australians were the ‘guinea pigs’ for the trial tour which included visits to the Thiruketheeswaram Temple, a swim at the Paalavi pond, visit to an eco-farm, morning and afternoon teas in different villages, a boat ride, fishing, swimming and lunch at Uththampetti, an island in the Giants’ Tank – all for just $25. A two-day tour took in Wilpattu National Park and the ancient city of Anuradhapura.


Initial tourism strategy planning workshopTourism


Surveying the guest houses in Mannar


Mannar’s Community Tourism Strategy

Bridging Lanka and the Mannar Chamber of Commerce have developed a community-based tourism strategy for Mannar. The ultimate goal is to position Mannar District as an alternative and premium tourist destination and by doing so stimulate the local economy and create a new employment pathway.

The Mannar strategy, positioned within the Government’s Tourism strategy 2011-2016, includes a suite of 22 projects from substantial to modest that will affirm Mannar’s uniqueness, honour its rich cultural heritage and history, and bring increased wealth to the people and businesses of Mannar District.

Input was gained from the people of Mannar and was shaped by a team of Bridging Lanka officers headed by Mr Tauri Tampuu, volunteer from Estonia. The team included Ranjan Xavier, Kelvin Thomas, Karnan Karnapathy and Diron Eliyas.

Tourism partners

Significant interest was shown by the International Finance Corporation to partner with Bridging Lanka in implementing a selection of the projects from the strategy. A high-level meeting was held with members of a World Bank consortium made up of the International Finance Corporation, TRC Tourism, Total Management Solutions Company, UrbanArc, Hitesh Mehta Design and Palmyrah House who had commenced exploring how to promote Mannar as a tourist destination.

The consortium digested all our reports (including Mannarin Marumalarchi 2022, the town planning workshop and our Diaspora Fact-finding Mission reports).

Guesthouse improvement

Guesthouse improvement project

As a result of our tourism strategy, the owners of a number of local guesthouses have banded together to improve their facilities and services. The improvement program will assist the owner to better critique the condition of the premises, visit well-run establishments in order to experience the difference and to formulate a program of improvement works.

In monthly meetings the guesthouse operators have also commenced to explore other tourism opportunities including opening up Keeri beach and providing shelter and refreshments for serious tourist enjoyment.

Guesthouse directory

Guest house directory

The majority of guest houses do not market their services to those outside the town and expect visitors to simply ‘find’ them.

The Bridging Lanka team has compiled a directory of local guest houses for starters. They have visited each facility, assessed the quality of facility and service and put together a document that promotes each facility in a way that is useful to tourists.


Cultural immersion through Village Stay

The Village Stay accommodation option offers the ultimate way to gain a deep and more personalised grasp of the lives of local people. Bridging Lanka has trialled Village Stay with three families. It has proved to be a delightful and enriching experience for host and guest alike.

The local person has benefitted through exposure to a wider worldview, an additional income stream, inspiration to improve their living conditions and friends for life! The guest has been blown away by the warmth, real-life experience and cultural learning.


Van drivers complete a tourism survey


Tourism guides

A forum was held for the district’s van drivers to identify places of tourist interest and to gauge drivers’ interest in becoming tour guides. Much interest was generated and many van drivers nominated to be guides.

One issue identified was ‘language’. While some can manage speaking English, others are not. For starters, English language learning will become essential before other languages are tackled. Already in existence is a pool of English language competent people who could be used as guides or interpreters – former students of religious seminaries.


Kelvin writes up new tourist places of interest



Old Dutch lighthouse, Mannar Island



The team ascend ancient British lighthouse



The burial site of the 40ft Muslim man


Tourist sites of significance

The Bridging Lanka team scoured the Mannar district in search of interesting and historic sites for inclusion in future tour development.

From the island to the mainland, local people were consulted and asked to share their stories which were compiled into a resource to be used in training tourist guides.

The tourism subcommittee has been instrumental in guiding this investigation which has unearthed previously unknown and unrecorded folk history.


Tourism consultation

Through a number of consultations, residents have recognized the benefits of tourism for Mannar and the need to take control of it themselves in order to minimize any adverse effects.

They preferred small-scale, culturally sensitive, economically sustainable and eco-friendly approaches to tourism over the “high end” imposed western resort-styled models.

They also talked about a custodial approach to tourism in which they both preserved their heritage and shared their unique local knowledge with others.

A set of values by which all tourism activity shall be assessed has been verbalized and agreed upon by residents:

  • Affirms Mannar’s uniqueness
  • Uses local resources (natural landscapes and products)
  • Engages in eco sensitive development
  • Provides affordable and readably accessible services for tourists
  • Creates low-cost tourist investment opportunities for local people
  • Offers rich cultural experiences
  • Ensures local employment and community benefit.