From mine to market – showcasing Sri Lanka’s jewellery legacy to the world

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The Sri Lanka Gem and Jewellery Association (SLGJA) hosted their second Key Person’s Forum for the industry recently, with the objective of facilitating the industry during this pandemic period and boosting overall tourism in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism.

The forum was conducted with Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga, State Minister of Tourism, Hon. Lohan Ratwatte, State Minister of Gem and Jewellery related Industries, Ahsan Refai, the Chairman of SLGJA and Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. The event, created a platform for a two-way discussion between the gem and jewellery industry and Ministry of Tourism and was attended by executive members of the SLGJA, the National Gem and Jewellery Authority (NGJA) and many local gem and jewellery traders. The main focus was laid on enhancing the partnership between the Gem and Jewellery industry and the SLTPB to promote the precious facets of the Sri Lanka to the world.

The collaboration between the gem and jewellery industry and the tourism sector will be capable of maximizing an influx of tourists to the country, especially attracting the up-market tourists. With the potential to be one of the largest foreign revenue earners, by generating around $500 million foreign exchange through the sale of gems and jewellery to foreign travelers, the gem and jewellery industry will be an immense support to uplift the tourism sector.

It is no secret that the prestige of the Ceylon Sapphire is a world renown factor. In his opening remarks by Ahsan Refai, Chairman of SLGJA, spoke of Sri Lanka’s rich heritage of producing high quality gemstones is a unique opportunity to promote and market gemstones to the world. “A concentrated marketing campaign together with the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority would greatly benefit the promotion of gem and jewellery trade. This will encourage more tourists to visit our island to experience our gem mines that are set against the backdrop of the beautiful paddy and mountain landscapes. The gem and jewellery industry in Sri Lanka spans over centuries in history with able miners, talented crafts people and astute traders carrying the treasures of the land beyond oceans, and bringing in much wealth back to the country.” As shopping is a key feature of any tourist experience, allying the Ceylon Sapphire as part of Sri Lanka’s tourism campaigns would be an ideal way to increase tourism, especially upmarket tourists looking to spend.

Speaking at the event, Hon. Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of Tourism acknowledged the need to marry the efforts of the two industries, saying “It is our responsibility to protect and expand the brand recognition we have for our gem and jewellery industry”. He iterated that the Ministry of Tourism is positive about drawing the necessary action plans to implement campaigns where tourism will call attention to the gem and jewellery sector as part of promoting the destination.

Speaking on behalf of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and emphasizing the evident benefits of the two industries working together, Chairperson Kimarli Fernando assured the promotion of the gem and jewellery industry through the SLTPB in all future campaigns. She positively emphasized the significant impact that can be achieved through this association. She also spoke of a tourism travel app, currently in the development stages with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. Accordingly, it was offered to add the names of all the gem and jewellery traders, who are licensed by the authority, on the app, that will help tourists locate the shops as ‘places to visit’.

Hon. Lohan Ratwatte, thanked Hon. Prasanna Ranathunga and the members of the gem and jewellery industry for their unyielding support of his Ministry. He also assured the support of the Ministry in industrial growth and in promoting the industry in a larger scale through providing ease of support for business operations and creating a conducive environment for the sector to grow. The Minister emphasized his support by proposing the appointment of a steering committee together with the Ministry of Tourism, to explore mutually beneficial strategies.

The possibility of holding Facets International Gem and Jewellery Show in January of 2022, as addressed by Altaf Iqbal, the Chairman of aforementioned show, was also discussed. As the main event that draws a large number of foreign buyers, Facets is one of the campaigns that can truly leverage tourism to the country. The need for further promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination with the inclusion of the Gem and Jewellery associations in the promotional campaigns, the increase in foreign exchange earnings and the overall quarantine process for tourists coming into the country were also highlighted.

Having agreed upon the fact that the promotion of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination is severely lacking, the potential for the gem and jewellery industry to be one of Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange earners, with the implementation of well thought out policies that are adapted in consultation/partnership with the trade, was acknowledged.

Acknowledging the potential of the gem and jewellery industry to play an important role along with the tourism industry, Akram Cassim, Vice Chairman of the Jewellery Segment of SLGJA said, “The mystery, magic, myths and legends along with the history, crafts and skills of Sri Lanka’s gem and jewellery legacy should be showcased to the world through tourism. Our amazing island is home to the finest of coloured gemstones – the Ceylon Sapphire. A gem like no other, in a country like no other… We have something so unique that no other country can offer to tourists anywhere in the world. So let us work together to create an amazing Ceylon Sapphire experience for tourists visiting this island.”

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