© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Occupations Food Production Market Small Business Building Other Occupations


Tourism is an increasingly important occupation in Sri Lanka especially since the end of the Civil War. It provides a valuable source of income and employment at several levels for Sri Lankans as well as generating much needed foreign exchange.

Colombo and its environs, Kandy, the Cultural Triangle are the traditional tourist sites. This includes Anuradhapura to the North, Polonaruwa to the East and Kandy.  Within this triangle, there are other places of interest - Mihintale, Ritigala and Dambulla and Pollanarura. A visit to Yala National Park in the South was often part of a tour which culminated with a relaxing sojourn on one the beautiful palm-fringed South West coast beaches such as Bentota, Hikkaduwa and Unawatuna. These were and still are the traditional destinations  and route for many foreign tourists and tour companies.

However since the ending of the civil war, tourists are exploring throughout the island and undertaking very varied activities. This has all created extra employment opportunities for local people. There are the traditional jobs in the various hotels, guest houses, restaurants, tourist transport, tourist guiding and tourist craft shops. However increasingly outdoor activities such as hiking/trekking, scuba diving, meditation, ayurvedic holidays have greatly mushroomed. For example many locally run and staffed Scuba diving centres have opened up and the Sri Lankan Government has sponsored scuba diving training for Sri Lankans. (One such project sponsored by the Government was to train “would-be” illegal migrants whom the Sri Lankan Navy had rescued from the sea when they were abandoned by People Trafficers, the aim of this project was to show them they did not need to leave the country for the West as there were opportunities for them in Sri Lanka). Local tourist guides  organise and provide treks and game viewing etc.

Traditional craft producers such as the Mask Carvers of the South West have found new markets for their skills in tourism.

The roadside stalls selling delicious seasonal tropical fruits, snacks - cooked sweet corn, spicey beans and nuts, coconut drinks etc. are all benefiting from the increased foreign and domestic tourism.

The following sub-sections give further details of some of the varied tourist activities on offer. Below are a few examples.

You Tube Video Links:

Scary Dancing Snakes - Experience Sri Lanka


Sri Pada / Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka - Night-time Ascent


Shy Snake Crossing Road, Night-Time in Sri Lanka


Stunning Trees

Sri Pada (Adam’s Peak)

Waterfalls are especially common in the Hill Country

The Temple of the Tooth, Kandy. (Lord Buddha’s tooth is kept within this Temple)

Many of especially the older Temples are in caves near the hill-tops.

Pilgrim placing stick to “hold up” the overhanging rock.

Inside these rock Temples are enormous Buddha. The walls and roof illustrate the life of Buddha and Sri Lankan scenes.

The often strenuous climb is well rewarded not just by the beauty of the Temples but the views of the surrounding countryside and Jungle.

Cricket is the National Sport. Although there are International Stadia, local games are along the lanes or on the beaches. Pieces of coconut wood may be used for bats and balls are often improvised. Many of the famous international Sri Lankan cricketers started like this.

Forestry and Wildlife Departments protect the trees. Police checkpoints enforce these laws against illegal felling.