Fifteen conservation organizations developing or engaged in ecotourism businesses in Sri Lanka came together, in late June 2014, to learn the key elements in nature and heritage interpretation. The training, offered by IUCN SL in collaboration with Kuoni, the Swiss travel company, and Whittall Boustead, the local agents for Kuoni, provided participants with practical skills in this important field.
A training workshop of “Nature and Heritage Interpretation” was organized by IUCN in collaboration with Kuoni Travel Holding and Whittall Boustead (Travel) limited, from 23rd to 26th June 2014, at the Laya Resort- Kukuleganga with a field excursion to Sinharaja world heritage site. The workshop was supported through the IUCN / Kuoni Global Initiative aimed at supporting conservation organizations to develop and manage ecotourism businesses through improved business skills, knowledge and experience sharing. IUCN, Kuoni and Whittall organized a similar workshop in October 2013 on business skills for ecotourism at Jetwing Lagoon hotel, Negombo and at Small Fisheries Federation, Chilaw. The main objective of the workshop, that brought together 19 participants from 15 organizations representing national level NGOs, small scale eco tourism business and CBOs, was to develop a basic understanding of contemporary nature and heritage interpretation theory and practice with a focus on current developments and global best practices. Other objectives of the event were to provide participants with an opportunity to collaboratively produce a nature and heritage interpretation product based on the field experience to Sinharaja Forest; and promote networking towards the establishment of a forum on ecotourism businesses, where interpretation practices can be up-scaled and shared. Dr Russell Staiff, a world renowned expert in “heritage interpretation” from Australia, was the lead resource person while Mr. Uditha Hettige and Mr Aloy Diaz, two experienced nature guides in Sri Lanka, contributed during the field visit to Sinharaja world heritage site and follow up discussions on professional tour guiding. Key themes explored during this workshop were: the definition of interpretation, elements of a good interpretation, nature interpretation and digital media, and current issues in interpretation. For more information on the global programme visit www.iucn.org/ecotourism.