Archive | TOURISM


SRI LANKA: MICE Tourism in high demand – Minimum Room Rates concept should be scrapped

Posted on 05 October 2017 by admin


By: Upali Obeyesekere – Editor, The Times of Sri Lanka.

The minimum room rates in Colombo hotels have been a hot topic in the tourism industry for some time. Many in the hotel trade consider this policy as disruptive as opposed to it been pro-active.

The ‘Minimum Room Rate’ introduced by Colombo City Hotels in Sri Lanka is a contentious policy. It has been a hot topic since introduced in 2009, by the Rajapaksa Government soon after the cessation of the north-east situation. Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, or Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events (MICE) is a type of tourism in which large groups, usually planned well in advance, are brought together for a specific event. According to JLL Research, around sixty-five percent of Colombo hotel demand was from business tourists or MICE tourism. This upward trend in tourism arrivals prompted the Minister of Tourism Development John Amaratunga to do away with ‘minimum room rates’ as it hurts the market opportunities.

The Tourism Development and Christian Affairs Ministry on a couple of occasions over the past two years had communicated that the minimum room rate would be abolished in early 2017 since the market forces best determine the intrinsic value of a product. However, on each occasion, within a period of days, various lobby groups managed to get these policy decisions reversed.

Just last week Mahesh Fernando, General Manager of Hilton Colombo speaking to a mainstream media outlet in Sri Lanka was highly critical of the ‘minimum room rate’ and was quite vocal when he said, “The regulation is highly unwarranted, and the bigger hotels do not want any authority dictating terms to them”. Quite a strong statement from the GM of Colombo Hilton who is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Fernando’s rationale is that room rates should be fixed in keeping with market sources (demand and supply). In most other countries, this does not happen, he emphasised.

It must be said that successful tourism destinations in the region such as Thailand, Bali or Singapore do not have a minimum room rate criterion. The Maldives tourism industry depends on upscale tourists who pay USD $180 to USD $2,000 per day for the resorts. Minimum room rates in these places will kill the industry. This will apply to Sri Lanka over a period of time, analysts say.

Talking of the tourism industry and hotel accommodation, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo is scheduled to open soon and reservations are accepted as of October 2017. It is a 5-star hotel with 31 floors and 466 rooms. The hotel is equipped with five restaurants and 34 suites. Shangri La Colombo is expected to offer a new level of luxury hospitality in Sri Lanka. Shangri-La's world-renowned CHI, The Spa presents 10 private rooms and a soothing selection of traditional Sri Lankan and Asian treatments and therapies. The spa is complemented by a state-of-the-art, 24-hour Health Club and one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in Colombo.

To meet the needs of Colombo's dynamic business community, Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo, offers the largest and most extensive hotel conference and event facilities in the region, which can cater to up to 2,000 guests.

Hilton Colombo is celebrating its 30th anniversary with General Manager Mahesh Fernando stewarding the destiny of the hotel. Long standing patrons of Hilton Colombo might recall the name ‘Gamini Fernando’, who was General Manager of the hotel in the early years, a person who fashioned the property into a business cum family hotel.

GM Mahesh Fernando stays positive on forward bookings. “We also see a lot of Sri Lankan expats and their families coming and staying with us, especially towards the end of the year. With the growth of Sri Lanka tourism and seven new Hilton Hotels to be added in Sri Lanka from next year, we are very optimistic of the future,” He said.

Interestingly, as at date of writing the popular search engine Booking.Com shows room rates (Canadian dollars) in Colombo ranging from $109 to $225 for a hypothetical December 20th reservation. Jetwing Colombo Seven $171; Cinnamon Red $109; Mandarina Colombo $127; The Kingsbury $169; Movenpick Hotel Colombo $166; Galle Face Hotel $161; Taj Samudra $219; Cinnamon Lakeside $156; Fairway Colombo $113; Hilton Colombo $169; Cinnamon Grand $156; Sh

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Kavan Ratnayaka to head Tourist Development Authority

Posted on 14 July 2017 by admin


Chairman of the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. (ANCL) Kavan Ratnayaka has been appointed the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA).

The SLTDA is the body entrusted with the tourism industry and Ratnayaka is tasked with implementing a national tourism plan that will positively affect the tourism industry.

Ratnayaka, who is responsible for turning around the fortunes of the ANCL and ensuring financial stability, is expected to begin his role at the SLTDA on Monday (17).

An old boy of Royal College, Ratnayaka holds a Bachelor of Science (Physics) from the University of California.

He was previously the country General Manager of IBM and later Chief Executive Officer of Dialog Broadband and Chief Corporate Officer of Dialog Axiata PLC. 

Kavan is the elder brother of former UNP Parliamentarian Sagala Ratnayaka, who represented the district of Matara. 

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Tourism Minister John Amaratunga chief guest at 38th Graduation Ceremony

Posted on 04 July 2017 by admin

The Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management held its 38th Graduation Ceremony at the BMICH in Colombo yesterday.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga was chief guest at the ceremony. Following is the speech delivered by the minister.

"My congratulations to the 77 students who graduated as fully fledged hoteliers.

I’m extremely pleased to be here today as Chief Guest at the 38th Graduation ceremony of the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management, which is the country’s leading hospitality education provider.
Inaugurated in 1964 as the Ceylon Hotel School, it is the pioneer educational institute in the field of tourism and hospitality in the country. This year’s Graduation Ceremony will witness 77 students entering the hospitality industry as fully qualified tourism and hospitality professionals.

The new graduates have a big responsibility to ensure that they protect the good name of SLITHM as well as that of the country as their services will more often be directed towards foreigners who visit us as tourists. As such, they will be the country’s tourism ambassadors and their actions, talents, knowledge and skills acquired through training at SLITHM will define the success of the industry in the years to come. 
Today we have a serious issue with regard to manpower in the tourism and hospitality sectors. The demand is more than the supply. This is because of the continuing expansion of the hotel sector while the youth continue to focus on the more traditional career paths as opposed to the more glamourous hospitality careers. The result is that many lucrative job opportunities go a begging. 
Sri Lanka is now in an envious position especially with regard to its tourism industry as the arrival numbers continue to grow year on year. This is facilitated by the growing number of international hospitality brands that have entered our space in the recent past. 

Even this morning I read in the papers a 2 billion US dollar investment to build a 117 storey twin tower building housing a 1200 room hotel among other facilities. This is in addition to the currently ongoing mega projects undertaken by Hyatt, St. Regis, ITC, Marriot, Shangri-La, Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson, Silver Needle etc. among many other world class hotel chains who are currently in the process of constructing luxury hotels. These hotels will open up thousands of opportunities for our youth and it is our responsibility to both attract and train them to take up responsible positions in these establishments.

There is a misconception among our youth especially the females that the hospitality trade is not something that is suitable for them. This is a baseless, ill-informed and outdated theory. Today an entry level job in the hotel industry pays twice as much as any other field as a hotel employee is entitled to two monthly payments, namely the basic salary and service charge. When these two are combined and factored along with other benefits such as free meals, accommodation, medical benefits etc. the income is much higher than other fields. It is also noteworthy that the salaries paid by the big hotel chains are now comparable to what is being paid globally. Therefore there is no longer any reason for our qualified hoteliers to look for jobs overseas as their income will be greater if they stay here.

I take this opportunity to earnestly request all of the 77 students graduating today to first serve their motherland before seeking overseas exposure as Sri Lanka needs their services at this defining moment in its tourism industry. I say this because we are now at the halfway mark of our eventual arrivals target of 4 million tourists by 2020. Sri Lanka is well known the world over as a very hospitable nation with a very hospitable people who are always smiling. However in the recent past we have seen some adverse reports in the media where tourists have been exploited and the promised paradise has not materialized. Today social media is a very powerful tool and one bad experience can negatively influence thousands of others.
It is therefore our duty, especially those in the hospitality industry to be aware of the power of social media and to always ensure that those who visit us are treated well so that the same social media could be leveraged to positively influence other visitors.

We are also aware that an untrained employee can turn out to be a bad ambassador for the industry, which is why rather than waiting for youth to come to SLITHM, we have decided to take SLITHM to their doorstep. Today in addition to the existing satellite schools in Kandy, Anuradhapura, Koggala, Bandarawela, Ratnapura and Kurunegala, we have opened new training facilities in Hambantota, Passikudah, Polonnaruwa and Negombo as well in the hope that the country could offer consistent service standards to its visitors. In addition to the new schools we have also taken measures to double the output from the main facility in Colombo with the introduction of many entry level craft courses.

Today our hospitality sector offers direct employment to around 150,000 individuals. This number will double to 300,000 by the year 2020 to service the 4 million visitors we are targeting. The national room inventory which is around 25,000 at present will also increase to 45,000 by 2020. This government is very focused on making tourism the engine of national economic growth and the number one foreign exchange earner by 2020. There is already a Tourism Master Plan that is being implemented through a dedicated Tourism Task Force in order to achieve these goals. All of you in the industry have your own little tasks to fulfill in order to make the 4 million dream come true. 
I will not take any more of your time and wish to thank the Chairman of SLITHM, Mr. Sunil Dissanayake for his exemplary leadership that has steered the institution on to a very successful path and also his support team including the Director General and the very committed faculty members and support staff.

Finally, I wish the graduates of 2017 all the very best and a long and rewarding career in the hospitality industry. 
Remember as you progress in your career, always put your country first and don’t forget the place where it all began.

Thank you."

Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people standing and suit

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Australia to boost Sri Lanka tourism skills with Rs1.6 Billion

Posted on 23 January 2017 by admin



Jan 13, 2017 (LBO) – The Australian government will provide 1.6 billion rupees in aid and technical assistance, over four years, to strengthen Sri Lanka’s tourism sector, through training and mentoring for employees and small businesses.

The program will help Sri Lanka develop a highly-skilled labour force and place Sri Lanka as a premier tourist destination, a statement said.

The Skills for Inclusive Growth Program was launched by Australian High Commissioner Bryce Hutchesson with Minister for Skills Development and Vocational Training the Mahinda Samarasinghe recently.

“Australia understands tourism. It is one of our most important exports. We also understand skills development. We have a world-class education system and one of the world’s best vocational training systems,” the Australian High Commissioner said.

The Program will benefit local communities and businesses – with an initial focus in Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Polonnaruwa districts.

It will prioritise the underemployed, particularly local women, youth and people with a disability.

The program will support the full value chain of the tourism sector –for example, food suppliers, hospitality trainers, artisans, surf instructors, spa owners, accommodation providers, taxi drivers – as well as district planners, park rangers, industry regulators and business chambers.

“This is a time of hope and opportunity for Sri Lanka. Australia, as a long-standing partner, is glad to be playing a part in supporting Sri Lanka to build a bright future,” the High Commissioner added.

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