Archive for June, 2014

Spence signs BOI deal for new $ 100 m hotel with Spanish chain

Aitken Spence PLC has entered into an agreement with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka (BOI) to set up a five-star luxury resort in Ahungalla. This agreement was signed by BOI Chairman Dr. Lakshman Jayaweera and the Directors of Aitken Spence Malin Hapugoda and Vipula Goonathilake.


Aitken Spence PLC will launch the first business model involving the Southern Highway and the Mattala Airport by investing in a $ 100 million beach resort in Ahungalla to be managed by an international hotel chain. The five-storey, 500-roomed, five-star luxury resort, which will be managed by RIU Hotels, Spain, would also be a first for the Spanish chain, being their inaugural project in the Asia Pacific region.

“The timing of the hotel’s opening will be right since the Southern Highway to Hambantota is expected to reach completion by then and we have the Mattala Airport facility already in place, giving us the perfect mix for our business model.  Aitken Spence has always encouraged infrastructure development in the country and our investment is proof of our confidence and support of the Government’s development plans,” said Deputy Chairman of the Group Rajan Brito.

The Aitken Spence management is also of the opinion that the private sector needs to develop business modes of this nature, which are in line with the Government’s vision for the country’s development.BOI stated: “The BOI is very pleased that this project will be started in Ahungalla. The policy of the Government is to get 2.5 million tourist arrivals by 2016. Hence hotel room capacity needs to be increased to meet growing demand.”

The project will also be unique in its concept, since it will introduce charter flights to the country. The hotel which would cater to high end customers looking for long stay vacations will arrive on Boeing 787 Dreamliner charters which can carry up to 200-300 passengers at a time. RIU Hotels is an all-inclusive model which has seen international success across 107 properties managed by them in 16 countries.
This business model spearheaded by the Group would also have a snowball effect in developing the tourist industry, particularly in the deep south of the country.

“This would be a huge boost to the tourism sector as 700-800 guests coming into the country in one go would help in creating international awareness of Sri Lanka as an emerging holiday destination in Asia,” said the Deputy Chairman.

Source: http://www.ft.lk/2014/06/27/spence-signs-boi-deal-for-new-100-m-hotel-with-spanish-chain/

Galle Face Hotel opens US$ 20 m MICE Centre

Sales Director Mubarak Gaffoor, GM Tony Fleming and Catering and Conventions Director Thakshila Galappaththy. Picture by Roshan Pitipana

In a bid to entice more Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) related tourism into the country, the Galle Face Hotel launched its state-of-the-art Meetings and Conference Centre investing US$ 20 million. The centre comprises of seven boardrooms that will cater to meetings and conferences that would range from small to medium events.

The hotel had commenced an overall restoration project mid last year. Galle Face Hotel, Group General Manager, Tony Fleming said around the time the restoration project commenced, the hotel experienced haggard conditions and we knew it was time to restore the hotel to its former glory. “The completion of the Meetings and Conference Centre was the first stage of this restoration and it is pleasing for us to know that the Galle Face Hotel is set to establish a foothold in the MICE market in Sri Lanka. All guest rooms will be refurbished; there will be an increase to the size of the lobby and bar areas will be enlarged as well.”

“The MICE market in Sri Lanka is showing signs of progress and this initiative will provide active promotion for the country. Galle Face Hotel is ready to host leisure and business incentive conferences . The Hotel is located in the hub of the business capital and is in proximity to the central business district. Another advantage is the ability for those who attend events here to network and socialize in the many pubs, restaurants and nightclubs that are located in the locality,” Galle Face Hotel, Sales Director, Mubarak Gaffoor said.

The Meetings and Conference Centre, located in the North Wing, can hold 500 attendees. The opening of the conference centre and its unique features cater to provide tailor-made solution for guests. Modern facilities will be provided for the guests; from e-boards, stationary, sound systems and multimedia to a cafe.

“A dedicated meeting concierge is also appointed to provide a personalized service for the guests,” Galle Face Hotel, Director Catering and Conventions, Thakshila Galappaththy said.

Source: http://dailynews.lk/?q=business/galle-face-hotel-opens-us-20-m-mice-centre

Taking a greener step

Stylish and eco-friendly, Colombo Courtyard is an urban boutique hotel that was designed to provide guests luxurious accommodation, dining and spa facilities with responsibility. The hotel has now strode further in this effort, by taking steps to neutralize its carbon footprint, making it the first CarbonNeutral boutique city hotel in Asia.

Global warming is an undeniable factor in the changing climate patterns of our world today, which is fast transforming landscapes, destroying life patterns of human and animal life, and increasing the frequency and impact of natural disaster. Despite the denial of climate change by some experts, the continuous study and research of weather patterns over the last decade have proven that global warming is, in fact, responsible for rising sea levels, melting of snow and ice, increased heat content of oceans and levels of humidity, and the shift in the timings of winter and spring seasons.

The greenhouse effect is the process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in a planet’s atmosphere warm its lower atmosphere and surface. Major greenhouse gases (GHG) are emitted through various everyday human activities, such as using heat and electricity, and transportation.

However, pollution caused by rapid industrialization, deforestation and the careless utilization of natural resources have increased the percentage of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, resulting in the current global warming crisis. This crisis calls for the attention of everyone, to pay attention to one’s carbon footprint and mitigate the ways in which we harm our planet.

Colombo Courtyard was able to do this, with the expertise of Carbon Consulting Company (CCC), an organization that strives to reduce the environmental impact of the corporate sector of Sri Lanka through a range of services that promote sustainable practices. The CCC carried out a GHG assessment to measure the emissions the hotel made, directly and indirectly, through its various activities in the last year.

This GHG assessment was carried out in accordance with the GHG Protocol, developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Resources Institute (WRI), and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

“Colombo Courtyard is a hotel that already focused on being environmentally-friendly, by taking energy saving initiatives and using upcycled materials,” explains Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CCC (Sanith de S. Wijeyeratne) “which ensures that the hotel has a comparatively lower carbon footprint”.

The assessment quantified the hotel’s carbon footprint under three scopes. Scope one measured direct emissions quantified the hotel’s carbon footprint under three scopes. Scope one measured direct emissions released from sources that are owned or controlled by the company, including corporate car fleets, captive power generation facilities, or fuel combustion for heat.

Scope two measured indirect emissions associated from the generation of imported energy carriers that are not released from sources mentioned under scope one ad two, typically including business travel, waste disposal and outsourced activities.

The one way in which corporate entities can achieve carbon neutrality, according to Wijeyeratne, is by purchasing necessary carbon offsets to make its carbon footprint net zero. In this case, Colombo Courtyard was able to purchase carbon offsets that funded a methane capture project in China.

The CCC also believes in the continuous effort of its clients to be environmentally-friendly, sustainable and ethical, even after the verification and certification process, therefore recommending a Carbon Management Response Plan (CMRP), which includes in-detail monitoring and mitigation strategies for reduced carbon footprint.

By following these strategies, Colombo Courtyard is committed to report its emissions while it has implemented a sustainable energy saving and water efficiency practices with a proper waste management system. This requires careful and responsible methods of using lighting, heat and water, as well as cooking and food storage.

Source: http://dailynews.lk/?q=features/taking-greener-step

Key challenges facing the tourism sector in Sri Lanka

A synopsis of the keynote address delivered by Institute of Policy Studies Executive Director Dr. Saman Kelegama at the Annual General Meeting of the Institute of Hospitality – Sri Lanka Chapter, Hotel Ramada on 20 June

In Sri Lanka, one sector that featured prominently in the post-war rapid growth was the tourism sector. The arrival of tourists increased rapidly and passed the elusive one million mark in 2012 and increased further in 2013. Consequently, the tourist earnings also increased and now (2013) the sector occupies the position as the third largest foreign exchange earner to the country ($ 1.7 billion) after overseas remittances ($ 6.4 billion) and textiles and apparel exports ($ 4.5 billion).
A growing sector in an economy always faces challenges and the Sri Lankan tourism sector is no exception. These challenges have been highlighted by various commentators from time to time. An attempt is made here to highlight six challenges confronting the sector and the need to address them by both the tourist industry and the Government.

Deepening and broadening the availability of tourism data
To do any comprehensive analysis of the sector there needs to be a solid data base, however, available data have a number of shortcomings. Two cases may be highlighted. First, the tourism arrival figure for 2013 is given as 1.27 million after a correction was made by reconciling online and manual figures.
Irrespective of the accuracy of this figure, what anyone studying the tourist sector would like to know is the actual number of tourists who spend 24 hours or more and spend on a hotel night out of this number? The current figure includes many Sri Lankans with foreign passports, foreigners working in embassies for a short period, NGO workers, donor organisation staff – all of whom come for a limited period less than one year, as well as businessmen/traders who come for a couple of nights that are spent with business partners. If all these are factored in, the actual tourist hotel nights will apply only to about 75% of this figure of arrivals.

“Another issue that arises is which kind of tourists are we targeting – high-end, middle or the lower-end? Some argue that we must target the higher-end and focus on smaller number of tourists who are high spenders and bring more foreign exchange earnings. This is however debatable; Sri Lanka is still considered as a ‘value for-money cheap-end destination’ and this remains its strength. Thus the lower end should not be abandoned, while gradually developing the high-end and the middle level tourism
We need to move fast to make this sector a larger contributor to the economy. The current contribution of tourism to GDP is close to an average of 2% (1.7% in 2012 and 2.5% in 2013). Some of Sri Lanka’s Asian competitors are at a much higher level of tourism sector contribution to GDP, for example, Malaysia – 12.5%, Vietnam – 7.5% and Singapore – 5%. All these challenges among others need to be addressed on a fast track basis if Sri Lanka is to make the tourism sector an above 5% of GDP contributor to the economy after 2016. This is certainly not an impossible task if a master plan is worked out by the industry and the Government”

Second, the Foreign Guest Nights (FGNs) data from the informal sector is not available. With the popularising of the internet and social media, many young tourists look for cheaper hotels in the informal sector and all indications are that the informal sector will grow as rapidly as the formal sector. Data indicates that there are close to 11,700 rooms in the informal sector compared to 15,000 rooms in the formal sector and that is the only data available on the informal sector. Thus, more aggregate data on the informal sector will be useful for policy formulation and making more meaningful decisions on undertaking investment in the tourism sector.
Accurate information on FGNs is not available for the registered hotels also as some of these hotels do not submit this information on a timely basis. According to the CBSL – AR 2013, the maximum FGNs is in the Southern Coast followed by Colombo city during the post-war period but for the first time, Ancient Cities ranked second in 2013. The Hill Country and the Eastern Coast perform relatively poorly in terms of FGNs. While this is the picture that emerges from the formal sector, the point to consider is whether the picture will change if the informal sector is incorporated. These are the questions that need answers for investment expansion in the tourist industry.

Targeting 2.5 million tourists by 2016
It is contended that the current 26,700 rooms (15,000 + 11,700) should be increased to about 50,000 rooms by 2016 if we are to accommodate the 2.5 million tourists that are targeted for 2016.There are reasons to believe that the estimate of 50,000 rooms was to accommodate the peak season tourists during November to January.
It was reported in an article titled ‘Hotel construction explodes’ (The Sunday Times, 8 June 2014) that during 2014-2016, 5,306 rooms will come into operation with 75 hotels under construction. If it is assumed that another 4,000 rooms will come into operation in the informal hotel sector during the same period, there will be 9,306 rooms and when this is added to the 26,700 existing rooms, it will come to about 36,000 rooms, still short of the target of 50,000 rooms.
In the Sunday Times report, Shangri-La, Hyatt, ITC and the mixed hotels – Krrish, JKH Waterfront, Queensbury, Crown Plaza of Packer, etc. – have not been mentioned. It has also not discussed the challenge to hotel rooms by the glut of condominium apartments coming up, especially in the city of Colombo. There are number of condominium apartments that are now rented out to tourists. Thus, a more careful estimation needs to be done to judge the situation whether there is an under-supply of hotel rooms.
Clearly, the rooms coming up will be more than 36,000 if the left out component is added and will be most probably above 40,000. There are reasons to believe that this number will be adequate. First, the 2.5 million target may not be achieved in 2016. Second, even if the target is achieved, only about 75% will be actual FGN-related tourists, i.e., about 1.9 million. Further, there will be seasonality factor – periods where tourist flows are less. When all these factors are taken into consideration, the room number seems to be reasonably correct to accommodate the 2016 inflows.
In this respect, one may also recall what happened in the past. Before the 2011 World Cup Cricket, it was stated that there will be a large influx of tourists that the hotels will not be able to accommodate.
Thus, it was argued by some commentators that we may have to hire cruise liners to be parked in the Colombo Harbour to accommodate the excess tourists! Then last year, it was stated that Colombo will be flooded with foreigners when CHOGM starts and a minimum 4,000 rooms will be occupied. Both these proved to be highly exaggerated. No cruise ships were required for the World Cup and only about 2,000 rooms were occupied for CHOGM and the Colombo city hotel occupancy rate during CHOGM was 30% to 40%. Hence, over-exaggeration is an aspect that we have to discount in the tourist industry.
Earlier, the need was emphasised for a good data base on the tourist industry to make informed and sensible decisions. When data is weak, market gossip and herd instinct tend to take over and there can be an over-supply of rooms and cut-throat competition to attract tourists, while the government agencies will give quick approvals to hotel projects without giving much consideration to the qualitative aspects.

Minimum price for Colombo hotels
This was imposed after the war ended to control price undercutting in city hotels and truly reflect the standard of the hotels in the absence of the war-risk factor. As a result, the Colombo city hotel rates have increased by 40%-50%.
Although an initial price correction was required, whether the price of $ 180 per night for five star hotels unmatched by the services offered, was an over-pricing is questionable. It is reported that the Colombo city hotels had seen a decline in occupancy because tourists feel that they do not get value for money with such pricing. That there is a problem in price fixing is not only felt in Sri Lanka but also outside the country.
Recently, the Director of the Russia Centre of the Russian Embassy in Colombo had stated that more Russian tourists will come to Sri Lanka if the price quality ratio is realistic (The Island, 9 June 2014). For 2014, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority has projected 90,000 Russian tourist-inflows but the Director of the Russian Centre feels that the number could be much more if the price-quality ratio is addressed.
Unfortunately, minimum prices came at a time when the global economy was on a downturn, and disposable incomes of tourists were falling.
The minimum price is good as an initial correction but also has its fall outs just like the market price which encourages undercutting. The stakeholders of the tourism industry will have to work out a compromise formula until a market regulator is established for the sector which is the case in all matured market economies in the world.

“To match the slogan ‘Wonder of Asia,’ what are the wonders that Sri Lanka possesses? Two items that are noteworthy are Sigiriya and the gathering of elephants in Minneriya. Other than these two, one cannot think of any other wonder in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is questionable whether the branding of the destination is correctly placed
Sri Lanka lacks a cohesive marketing strategy and campaign which should be a mutually-agreed private-public partnership. There are various promotional exhibitions that have taken place in foreign capitals in the past but they are not based on a master plan to promote the market destination. There is much more work that needs to be done in this area”

Once a regulator is in place, it will be more prudent to allow the demand and supply forces or the market to take over to discover the equilibrium price. If not, with the occupancy falling, the desired capacity fulfilment will not take place in these hotels and it will prove difficult to achieve the set tourist target.

Human resource constraint
The number of total hotel rooms will increase to a level above 40,000 from the current 26,700 by 2016 as argued earlier. This will be a result of the number of hotels increasing by 75 in the formal sector and an unknown number in the informal sector. In this context, the question arises as to whether the human resources are adequate to meet this increase in hotels.
If one goes to any hotel in Maldives, UAE, Qatar or Oman one finds Sri Lankan workers – managers, cooks, waiters, gardeners, room boys, hotel car drivers, etc., clearly, revealing that some of the skilled and semi-skilled workers in the hotel industry have migrated overseas.
Meanwhile, the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management is bringing out close to 4,000 trained personnel per annum. Some of the Universities like Sabaragamuwa and Uva-Wellassa also produce 50 to 150 tourism trained graduates per annum. Apart from these, the existing private colleges in tourism also bring out some trained personnel although one cannot be sure about the quality of this training.
Nevertheless, all these trained outputs will not be adequate to meet the expansion and growth of hotels. Moreover, the quality of output, especially the proficiency in English and some other key languages, does not appear to receive much attention in the current training programs. Thus, the human resource constraint remains a major challenge the industry will face in the coming years which both the industry and the government have to immediately address.

Brand destination
To achieve the 2016 target it is necessary for Sri Lanka to have an effective tourism promotional strategy. In this context, two issues can be raised. First, does Sri Lanka have an effective brand destination? Second, is there a general marketing strategy for tourism? For brand destination, while Sri Lanka some years back had a slogan ‘Paradise Island,’ by the late 1990s, it changed to ‘Land Like No Other,’ then it changed to the current one: ‘Wonder of Asia’. Before the latest brand name came into being, the tourist industry came out with ‘Small Miracle,’ which did not receive a favourable response from the Government and was consequently rejected.
To match the slogan ‘Wonder of Asia,’ what are the wonders that Sri Lanka possesses? Two items that are noteworthy are Sigiriya and the gathering of elephants in Minneriya. Other than these two, one cannot think of any other wonder in Sri Lanka.  Therefore, it is questionable whether the branding of the destination is correctly placed.
If one takes a country like Singapore, at one time it was marketed as ‘Uniquely Singapore’ and when the country discovered diminishing returns from that slogan it was changed to ‘Yours Singapore’ to underpin its strengths as a destination. The re-branding was accompanied by a change in the offerings to tourists with the introduction of Formula One Racing, Casinos, and other night entertainments. The re-branding focused on the experience of a tourist that could be personalised – sound, tastes, sights, user-centricity, etc.
Branding a destination has to be a carefully-thought-out exercise based on the competitive strength and strategic position vis-à-vis the competitors. It is on this basis that countries have branded their tourism. For example, Greece – ‘A Masterpiece You Can Afford’; Canada – ‘Keep Exploring’; Malaysia – ‘Truly Asia’; Bulgaria – ‘A Discovery to Share’; India – ‘Incredible India’; Vietnam – ‘A Different Orient’; Maldives – ‘Always Natural,’ and so on.

Marketing strategy
Sri Lanka lacks a cohesive marketing strategy and campaign which should be a mutually-agreed private-public partnership. There are various promotional exhibitions that have taken place in foreign capitals in the past but they are not based on a master plan to promote the market destination. There is much more work that needs to be done in this area.
Even target group marketing is lacking. For example, is Sri Lanka making any attempt to attract some of the Italian and Chinese young couples that travel to Maldives for their honeymoon? East China Airlines that flies from Kunming in China to Maldives via Colombo has only 3% to 5% of passengers who get down in Colombo and this is the case in the return flight from Maldives to Kunming also. Italians who travel for sun and sand to Maldives are not fully aware of the different tourism products that Sri Lanka offers to complement their Maldivian experience. In sum, Sri Lanka has failed to market the country as one that offers a different product from that of Maldives to both Chinese and Italians who travel to Maldives in large numbers.
In this connection, another issue that arises is which kind of tourists are we targeting – high-end, middle or the lower-end? Some argue that we must target the higher-end and focus on smaller number of tourists who are high spenders and bring more foreign exchange earnings. This is however debatable; Sri Lanka is still considered as a ‘value for-money cheap-end destination’ and this remains its strength. Thus the lower end should not be abandoned, while gradually developing the high-end and the middle level tourism.
Here the example of Bangladesh in ready-made garment exports may be highlighted. By continuously focusing on the low end, Bangladesh has developed its ready-made garment industry to $ 20 billion export earner by increasing its volumes when Sri Lanka shifted away from the lower end and focused on more niche products with high value. Still, the value and volumes bring in $ 4 b export earnings to Sri Lanka, much less than Bangladesh – a country which was behind Sri Lanka in ready-made garment exports in 1990.
Thus, Sri Lanka should focus on its strength at the low end of the market but at the same time, develop the structure to attract middle level and high-spending tourists and also MICE tourists which brings higher earning than leisure tourists.

Concluding remarks
It is apparent therefore that we need to move fast to make this sector a larger contributor to the economy. The current contribution of tourism to GDP is close to an average of 2% (1.7% in 2012 and 2.5% in 2013). Some of Sri Lanka’s Asian competitors are at a much higher level of tourism sector contribution to GDP, for example, Malaysia – 12.5%, Vietnam – 7.5% and Singapore – 5%. All these challenges among others need to be addressed on a fast track basis if Sri Lanka is to make the tourism sector an above 5% of GDP contributor to the economy after 2016. This is certainly not an impossible task if a master plan is worked out by the industry and the Government.

Source: http://www.ft.lk/2014/06/27/key-challenges-facing-the-tourism-sector-in-sri-lanka/

Hotel East Lagoon Batticaloa completes one year

Text and Pictures by I. L. M. Rizan, Addalaichenai central correspondent

Hotel East Lagoon in Batticaloa has completed one year of operations and have met their financial targets. The hotel built with an investment of Rs. 350 million now attracts both foreign and local tourists to Batticaloa, named the ‘land of the singing fish.’

This hotel is situated near the Sinna Uppodai Lagoon, Batticaloa and was opened in June 2013 by Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

The surroundings of the hotel are calm and quiet with a natural view overlooking the lagoon. “The hotel fills a long felt need for the region to provide high class accommodation to both leisure and business travellers,” said Hotel Chairman and Batticaloa Chamber of Commerce and Industry President M. Selvarajah.

The hotel consists of 45 furnished rooms and suites and state of the art meeting and event facilities with a Banquet Hall.

More information can be obtained from www.hoteleastlagoon.lk

Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=business/leisure-25062014

Sancharaka Udawa begins on Friday

The fourth edition of Sancharaka Udawa, takes place at Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Centre (SLECC) in Colombo on June 27 and 28 from 10 a.m. onwards.

Sri Lankan holiday makers are in for a treat this year with plenty of options, both local and foreign, on offer at the Sancharaka Udawa 2014 organized by Sri Lanka Tourism and Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO). The Western Province Tourist Board together with Sri Lankan Airlines and Laksala adds value to the event by joining-in as co-sponsors of the event.

“With over 250 stalls for this year’s event we are experiencing 50% increase in the participation for Sancharaka Udawa 2014 and we still receive fresh requests for stalls” commented Mahen Kariyawasan, President of SLAITO, joining our conversation.

“The display of outbound travel products brought-in many participants from the industry to this year’s show and would delight the Sri Lankan travellers with a lot of offers in foreign travel.

Hourly raffle draws will surprise the visitors at Sancharaka Udawa 2014 and the increased numbers of boutique hotels offer a variety of holiday location in Sri Lanka as well”, Kariyawasan said.

Sancharaka Udawa has gained momentum as the event of Sri Lankan travel industry when hoteliers, travel and tour operators, transport suppliers and other service providers are confidently looking forward to this annual exhibition to showcase their leisure products.

This event will also create opportunities for networking within the industry when service providers of various categories such as luxury train services, house boats, domestic airlines and air-taxies, caravans and para-motoring apart from the famous jeep safaris, boat rides, white water rafting, snorkeling, diving, mountain climbing and cycling and camping gather in one location.

Source: http://www.dailynews.lk/?q=business/leisure-25062014

New lustre for old Pettah

Two projects, the Gold City and the Floating Market, will see the beginnings of the transformation of this bustling city centre. Tharooshie Mahahewage reports

Before the advent of plush shopping malls, it was Pettah that was the hub for shoppers and it is still faithfully visited by determined bargain hunters, who comb the crowded streets and bustling shops for a purchase. Pettah admittedly lost some of its lustre in recent years but the Ministry of Defence and the Urban Development Authority that have implemented a number of projects including the city beautification programme, and refurbishment of old buildings, in their drive to make Colombo a Garden City, have now turned their attention to this city centre.

14

Two projects- the Gold City and the Floating Market soon to be opened will see the beginnings of the transformation.

The Gold City will, believe it or not, be sited at St. John’s market (the old fish market) built in 1894 by the British when the chairman of the Colombo Municipal Council was C.E.D. Pennywick. Bordered by Reclamation Road (renamed NHM Abdul Cader Mawatha), Gabos Lane and Sea Street, the building was turned into a five storeyed complex in 1983. The first two floors functioned as the fish market and the upper floors served as a wholesale market. Known as St. John’s fish market- the name coming from St. John’s road which ran adjacent to it, the whole complex was later named Colombo Central Super Market.

After the fish market was moved to Peliyagoda, the building lay vacant and dilapidated. It had been the idea of the Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, Gotabaya Rajapaksa to build a “Gold City” in the complex. As part of the first stage of the Rs. 400 million project, the first two floors of the building have been refurbished as a centre for bullion.

“The concept of a central location for gold, gem and jewellery trading is successful in many countries. The concept is targeted towards tourists and corresponds with our aim to make Colombo a top tourist attraction as the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. The idea was to bring the shops in Sea Street (Hetti Weediya) famous for its gold shops to one location,” said the former Deputy Director General of the UDA, senior consultant Weerasena Adikari. They hope to declare open the new complex at the end of July.

Architectural input for the project is by Avanti Jayasinghe. The newly built Gold City includes 83 shopping spaces, 48 on the first floor and 35 in the second, two bank spaces and the Gem and Jewellery Authority. A multi storeyed parking lot has been planned in front of the complex. Most shops have been taken by gold merchants, but some shops are still vacant. No major structural changes have been made to the building although timber floors, escalators have been added as well as access for the disabled. Security will also be provided. The project will be marketed at the airport and a shuttle service is also on the cards from hotels to the complex.

The Floating Market meanwhile is coming up at Bastian Street in Pettah. When construction began in March 2013, people hardly even knew there was a waterbody behind the shops and those who knew it thought of it as a smelly garbage dump. The UDA along with the Army’s Engineering Services Regiment have taken on the task of purifying the water, cleaning the surrounding areas and building the floating market complex.

“There were a lot of unauthorised constructions in the surrounding areas. This was also an unutilised area. Pettah is also the most crowded area in Sri Lanka and so the water body is extremely important,” Mr. Adikari said.

The new complex consists of five structures and 92 shops with 15 stalls selling local crafts with tourists in mind. A car park as well as walkways around the premises and its location in between the train station and the bus stop ensures easy access. Security will be provided around the clock, say the planners, inviting shoppers to enjoy the breeze and the surroundings. The water purification project is done under the UDA as part of the development of the Beira Lake.

“The water quality management is a constant process as the algae concentration in the area is high. The CMC, the Central Environmental Authority as well as the Ports Authority will undertake the purification system. The biggest responsibility is with the general public to maintain it,” said Mr. Adikari.

“The biggest positive return for us was to see the people’s attitude change. When everything is beautiful, people feel responsible towards it. We hardly see anyone throwing litter on the road. The culture associated with Pettah and Colombo is changing and we are thankful to the public for it. We hope this continues,” adds Mr. Adikari.

Both projects are carried out by the Army 4th ESR led by Sergeant Major Prasad. UDA Chairman Nimal Perera and Director General Harshan de Silva are also overseeing the project.

Source: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140622/plus/new-lustre-for-old-pettah-104146.html