Archive for February, 2015

OZO Colombo receives Golden Pillow Award for ‘Best Newly Opened Hotel in South Asia’

OZO Colombo Director Sales and Marketing Saman Perera, Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings Chairman Bob Kundanmal and OZO Sri Lanka Regional General Manager Alexandre Glauser with the Golden Pillow Award for Best New Hotel in South Asia

OZO Colombo was recently recognised as the ‘Best Newly Opened Hotel in South Asia’ by one of China’s leading hospitality industry awards, the Golden Pillow Award of China Hotels 2014.

The award is organised by China’s top financial publication, 21st Century Business Herald. The prestigious award began in 2004 and is currently amongst the top five awards for the hotel industry in China with recipients of the awards chosen through a committee of industry experts, editors, journalists and consumers.
Commenting on receiving the award Alexandre Glauser, Area General Manager for OZO Properties in Sri Lanka said: “I’m very proud to be a part of OZO Colombo as the hotel receives recognition in the international arena. We feel honoured to be selected as the Best Newly Opened Hotel. It is a reflection of the unique insider experience we provide to our guests through our innovative connectivity tools and quality amenities. In addition, our friendly team members are one of the biggest assets for OZO Colombo and help complete the visitor experience.”
Commenting further, Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings Ltd. Chairman Bob Kundanmal said: “I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of the team at OZO Colombo, since opening early this year. We were recognised for the practical and welcoming design of the property and an inventive concept with modern services. It is a great pleasure to see that this concept is proving a success here at home and also across the region to China.”

A representative from ONYX Hospitality Group (second from left) accepts the award for ‘Best New Hotel in South Asia’



SriLankan Airlines clarifies

In response to media articles published on SriLankan Airlines’ alleged lapses in safety, the Airline wishes to clarify and place on record the following:

The Airline has a Safety Management System, part of which is flight data monitoring on a continuous basis through the digital flight data that is received from the aircraft. This is used to identify any event that exceeds the pre-set profiles of the flight and is flagged as a deviation. Pre-set profiles are applicable to a particular aircraft type and sector and are in line with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of the Airline.

The Flight Safety Section of the Airline monitors these trends on a continuous basis and identifies any deviations which are safety critical. In this process the Airline confirmed that it had not found any instances which exceeded the pre- set profiles which were safety critical nor any evidence of instances of Flight Crew deactivating certain functional and vital flight instruments/engines/systems in flights (including the IRS)  engaged in commercial passenger operations with a view to getting an opportunity to practising certain abnormal and emergency conditions, as mentioned in the Article  and as mentioned in quoted letter of Director General of Civil Aviation.

However, there was in fact a case of an inflight turn back due to suspected engine high vibration. As the pilot’s occurrence report had not given sufficient details to identify the root cause of the said vibration SriLankan Engineering requested Airbus Industries for an in depth report of the Digital Flight Data Recordings (DFDR) pertaining to that particular flight.  As per the report, the Airline found that the Flight Crew which operated that particular flight had deviated from the SOP’s of the Company. Immediately, the Airline appointed a panel of inquiry consisting of the most senior instructor pilots, which,  after due inquiry found that the Flight Crew had violated SOPs of the Company but not to the effect of simulating conditions with passengers on board as stated in the Article.  The Company based on the findings of the Inquiring Panel has taken appropriate action vis – a – vis the Fight Crew to address such violation.

SriLankan Airlines has an unblemished safety record and its crews have been trained in keeping with the highest international standards which have been recognised as such by the regular inspections and audits conducted both by the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka and other international institutions such as International  Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). The last such IOSA audit was conducted in December 2014 at which the Airline was re-certified.

With regard to the other incident mentioned, SriLankan hereby refers to the entry logged in the Captain’s Report where the Captain, upon his return to the cockpit had found the door being opened manually by the first officer who has gotten up from her seat. The captain has de-briefed her thoroughly of the seriousness of the event and it was acknowledged by her. And the matter was handled then and there and closed.

SriLankan wishes to reaffirm that the Airline and its flight crew, at no point, had compromised on the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.- SriLankan Airlines


Sri Lanka tourism urged to go for new branding


By Harischandra Gunaratna

A veteran and one of the most successful hoteliers, tour operators and travel agents from the Maldives with a considerable stake in the hospitality industry in Sri Lanka and elsewhere yesterday told The Island Financial Review that there was a dire need for Sri Lanka’s tourism product to re-position itself and go for new branding if the country was to become one of the top destinations in Asia.

Sri Lanka had been stagnating as a destination for sometime though there had been much rhetoric and bragging by the officials, he added.

“The trend and demands in the tourism industry have changed drastically and we have to gear ourselves to meet them with a new approach. We cannot solely depend on trade markets, but go beyond , the veteran said under condition of anonymity.

‘It is sine-qua-non that the stakeholders, including the tourism authorities change their mindset and give the much needed facelift to the industry, discarding the hackneyed philosophies by introducing new concepts and following new trends, he pointed out.

The seasoned campaigner in the tourism industry on a brief visit to

Colombo said that the scope is unlimited for Sri Lanka and it should explore new markets with a desire and will without depending on traditional markets only.

“Sri Lanka should explore the oil rich countries in Central Asia where high spending holidaymakers are looking for new destinations and the country fits the bill.It should act fast, he advised.

The veteran opined that “Sri Lanka’s national carrier should introduce direct flights to Central Asia and Africa and the tourism authorities should conduct aggressive promotions in wooing the the holidaymakers from those markets. On the other hand, Colombo could easily become a hub for traffic from those countries visiting here and moving to other destinations if properly marketed.

‘There are several hitherto untapped niche markets and one is ‘tea tourism’. If properly marketed the benefits could be immense as there is a ready demand for it. For some reason those at the helm in the past had ignored this niche segment and those handling tourism promotions at present should take cognizance of the fact that it is a gold mine and the country has all the ingredients needed to sustain this segment of the market and start promoting it without delay.

“Ceylon Tea is known the world over and why not the tourism authorities capitalise on that,” he asked.

‘No one can tell the outside world about Sri Lanka than Sri Lankans themselves and the country could achieve its goal easily with qualified ,experienced,non- poiltical persons at the helm, he said


Jetstar Asia and SriLankan Airlines launch new codeshare


SriLankan Airlines customers will soon enjoy greater access to cities throughout South East Asia and Australia as part of a new codeshare agreement with Jetstar Asia.

From April 5, SriLankan customers will be able to travel on codeshare services operated by Jetstar Asia on seven routes from Jetstar Asia’s hub in Singapore. The cities of Darwin, Phnom Penh and Phuket will be new destinations to SriLankan’s customers. The other destinations to be included are Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur and Perth.

SriLankan passengers will benefit from the convenience of a single ticket itinerary that includes SriLankan’s baggage allowance. Passengers will enjoy a seamless transfer at Singapore’s Changi airport, with baggage being through checked and onward boarding passes being received at the initial departure point.

SriLankan Airlines CEO Mr Chandrasena considers the new codeshare agreement as a means for enhanced tourism between the Sub continent and Asia Pacific regions.

“We consider this a tremendous opportunity for Sri Lankans who can enjoy greater connectivity from Colombo via its gateway in Singapore to fascinating new destinations of the South East and cities in Australia. Passengers from those destinations too will now have seamless travel options taking advantage of SriLankan Airlines’ daily services from Singapore to our Colombo hub.

“Additionally, our customers will be able to connect with our daily frequencies to India, Pakistan and the Maldives further boosting tourism between the two regions.

“With Australia being home to a large Sri Lankan expatriate community, the services to Perth and Darwin with Jetstar Asia will provide them greater connectivity and convenience when travelling to Sri Lanka to visit families and friends back home,” said Mr Chandrasena.

SriLankan Airlines is one of the largest South Asia carriers and the expanded cooperation will provide passengers attractive itineraries as well as enhance Jetstar’s regional footprint, said Jetstar Asia CEO Mr Barathan Pasupathi.

“SriLankan Airlines’ customers will have access to Jetstar Asia’s extensive network in Southeast Asia and Australia, while transferring enjoying Singapore Changi’s world-class facilities” said Mr Pasupathi.

Mr Lim Ching Kiat, Changi Airport Group’s Senior Vice President of Market Development, said, “Changi Airport welcomes this development between SriLankan Airlines and Jetstar Asia as not only would it promote greater people flow between South Asia and Southeast Asia/Australia via Changi, but also grow both airlines’ businesses in Singapore”.

SriLankan Airlines currently operates up to three daily services to Singapore.

SriLankan Airlines has interlined with all airlines in the Jetstar Group since June 2014.

The Jetstar Group will now have five codeshare partners on selected routes – Qantas Airways, Emirates, Japan Airlines, American Airlines and SriLankan Airlines.


Beautiful, idyllic BANDARAWELA

For me, Bandarawela is my second home, largely due to my formative years spent there. Year-round chilly weather, laid-back charm and a comfortable laziness pervades this town, which lies between hills and tea plantations. You won’t find a shortage of greenery in sight, wherever you choose to look – a refreshing change for those caught in the rat race that is Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo.
You’d be surprised at how close this idyllic town is to Colombo, about four to five hours’ drive by car. The second largest city in the Badulla District, Bandarawela is located on the western part of the Uva Province and on the eastern slopes of the central hills of our island nation. If you’re travelling from Colombo, the uphill climb, winding roads (and if you’re lucky misty environs), would signal the proximity of this beautiful town.
Whether visiting as a destination or just passing through, here is a list of a few things worth seeing in Bandarawela, if you happen to find yourself in this town.

Bandarawela town/Bandarawela Hotel
Once you pass the railway crossing down the decline, you know you’re nearing the town of Bandarawela, which has come a long way since my childhood days. There’s even a Cargills that serves up pretty much everything you’d find in a Colombo outlet.
The biggest novelty of the town is the looming buildings that make up the Bandarawela Central Bus Stand which was declared open only last year. The grey construction has more or less made travel to Bandarawela that much easier, with ample parking space for multiple buses.
A little ahead and next to the post office, you’d find a road leading upwards which will take you to the Bandarawela Hotel. Owned by the Aitken Spence group, this colonial bungalow combines the charm of a century old-British built property and modern amenities, all nestled among the misty mountains.
The architecture is bound to take you back to its bygone era; 33 rooms decorated in traditional style, delectable cuisine, renowned facilities and the breath-taking views surrounding the property, make this a must-see and must-experience hotel in Bandarawela.
An interesting feature is their Third Dimension Cuisine which serves up meals that look good, taste good, and are good for you. The ingredients used are all fresh and locally produced.

Church of the Ascension, Bandarawela

Once you pass the bustle of Bandarawela town, you’d be transfixed by the beauty of this church built in 1909 by a British-born Priest Rev. W.J.P. Waltham, although the vestry, side chapel and bell tower were built later.
Fringed by beautiful flowers of all colours and a carefully tend-to lawn, Church of the Ascension Bandarawela is also known as the ‘Gal Palliya’. If you are to drop in to visit this place of worship, make sure to take a slow walk up the incline to see the length of the property, inclusive of the priests’ quarters and congregation’s fellowship buildings.
In its surrounds, you’d also find the Bandarawela Children’s Park, a large space with all the playground necessities, and the Bandarawela Public Grounds where most of the town’s festivities – cricket matches, religious and cultural celebrations – take place.

Dowa Temple

The Dowa Rock Temple is one of Sri Lanka’s heritage sites and is located on the Badulla – Bandarawela main road. The highlight of the temple is a four-metre-high standing Buddha statue cut into the rock. The walls of the adjoining cave shrine are carved from solid rock and are covered with Sri Lankan style-Buddhist murals. The paintings depict the influence of the Kandyan era and comprise various Jathaka stories.
It is believed that King Valagamba took refuge in this temple in the 1st century BC during his 14-year exile from Anuradhapura. Legend also states that a secret underground tunnel stretches from this temple all the way to Kandy.
S. Thomas’ Bandarawela
A branch of S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia, under the Anglican Church of Ceylon, S. Thomas Bandarawela is a sprawling expanse of beautiful buildings and landscape. The school is run by a Board of Governors which is chaired by the Anglican Bishop of Colombo, who is also known as the ‘Visitor of the College’.
The aim of the founder, W.T. Keble, was to provide a free atmosphere for students, remote from great towns in a healthy climate, but at the same time not second to any other school in the island.
As the daughter of a teacher at this prestigious College, I got the chance to follow my mom around this school, on occasion. It’s safe to say the school has maintained its rustic charm of the ’80s to this day. Carefully-tended-to gardens bursting with flowers of all kinds, archaic buildings and long paved pathways leading to the various departments complete the picture.
You need to get prior permission from the school office if you’re to visit the school as a tourist but the effort is worth it.

Adisham Monastery
About a half-hour’s journey from Bandarawela you’d find Adisham, a monastery run by Benedictine monks. Amidst the tranquillity of the misty hills, this bungalow attracts many visitors yearly. The founder of this property is Sir Thomas Lister Villiers, who was born in 1869.
Waterfalls around Bandarawela
Dunhinda Falls, Diyaluma Falls and Ravana Falls are the three waterfalls worth seeing close to Bandarawela.
Dunhinda Falls – Located on the Badulla-Mahiyangana main road, 33 km away from the Bandarawela town, Dunhinda is about 210ft (64m) high. To see the dalls you’d have to walk about one km along a footpath from the Badulla-Mahiyangana main road.
Diyaluma Falls – The second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and the 361st highest waterfall in the world. It is located six km away from Koslanda on the Beragala-Wellawaya main road. If you’re travelling from Bandarawela, you’d reach the falls via Poonagala Road.
Ravana Falls – Located on the Bandarawela-Wellawaya main road, Ravana Falls is about 11 km away from Bandarawela. It is 82 ft (25m) high and cascades from an oval-shaped concave rock. Ravana caves located rear Ravana Falls is another attraction for both locals and tourists. Legend states that King Ravana kidnapped Princess Sita and hid her in these caves behind the waterfall.
Halpewatte Tea Factory
Bandarawela is surrounded by beautiful tea plantations cultivated in British colonial times and has been a major Ceylon Tea production site since time immemorial. Halpewatte Tea Factory, located in Ella (13 km from Bandarawela), is said to be the largest tea factory in the Uva region.
The factory offers visitors a guided tour where you can learn everything there is to know about Ceylon Tea manufacturing. Taking the tour, you’d be surprisingly enlightened on the intricate detailing and copious amounts of work put in by every party involved in the tea making process.

Lipton’s Seat
Located about 11 km away from Bandarawela town, Lipton’s Seat is famous for the panoramic and magnificent view it offers. If you want to avoid the disappointment of mist clouding your view, the best time to visit would be from March to August, between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

(Trekurious together with DailyFT explores Sri Lanka for the curious traveller. Trekurious works with talented individuals and great brands to create amazing experiential tours, activities, and events in Sri Lanka. You can find out more at


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SLAITO announces 5th edition of Sancharaka Udawa

From left: Chairman Sub Committee Dirk Grigson, SLAITO Vice President  Devendra Senaratne, SLTDA Director General Malraj Kiriella, SLAITO President Mahen Kariyawasam, SLTPB Chairman Rohantha Athukorala, SLTPB Director Marketing Madubhani Perera and SLAITO Treasurer Harith Perera – Pic by Lasantha Kumara

The Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) President Mahen Kariyawasam last week announced the launch of the fifth edition of Sancharaka Udawa at a media briefing held at the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM).

The trade fair will take place on 24 and 25 April from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Memorial Exhibition Centre of the BMICH.
The tourism fair is organised in association with Sri Lanka Tourism to create a platform for all stakeholders of the tourism industry to network and gain awareness of each other’s products and services. Kariyawasam unveiled the new logo and revealed the tagline for this year’s trade fair – ‘Sri Lanka’s only tourism fair’.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) Chairman Rohantha Athukorala noted that 24% of the country’s GDP comes from the tourism industry and at present stands at $ 1.7 billion. He also pointed out that with the return of democracy, the brand and destination marketing structure for Sri Lanka need to be revisited and reinvented.
Sancharaka Udawa functions as a platform where small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs of the tourism industry come together to showcase their products and services that are often utilised by the tourism sector. The organisers are positive that new business opportunities will be made available for all exhibitors as well as visitors.
The organisers have planned out 200 stalls and the space allocation starts from four square meters upwards. Investment per stall will be Rs. 12,000 upwards for SLAITO members and Rs. 15,000 upwards for non-members. The application form can be obtained through or by simply sending an email to . The exhibition secretariat CDC Events and Travels Ltd. can be reached on 0112587040/ 0112335557 for further information or by way of fax on 0112360070. (SH)

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ONYX breaks ground in Galle for 172-room third resort in Sri Lanka

 The proposed Amari Galle

The Thailand-based ONYX Hospitality Group yesterday marked a key development in the expansion of its Amari brand by breaking ground for the construction of the third property Amari Galle in Sri Lanka.

The hospitality group’s hotel brand OZO has already made an indelible footprint in Sri Lanka’s hospitality landscape, with OZO Colombo, which opened in June 2014 and OZO Kandy, which is due to open in April this year.
Owned by Sino Lanka Hotels Galle Ltd. and headed by Bob Kundanmal, Amari Galle will be managed by the ONYX Hospitality Group under its full-service Amari brand.

From left: President and CEO, ONYX Hospitality Group, Peter Henley; Director, Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings Ltd., Manu Bhojwani; Director, Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings Ltd., Rajan Bharvani; Director, Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings Ltd., Stefan Furkhan; Minister for Sports and Tourism, Navin Dissanayake; Chairman, Sino Lanka Hotels Holdings Ltd., Bob Kundanmal; Governor – Southern Province, Dr. Hemakumara Nanayakkara; Galle Mayor Methsiri De Silva

The 172-room hotel is located on Galle Road, approximately 2.5km north of the Galle Fort. The hotel’s facilities will include a swimming pool, gym, Breeze Spa, banqueting facilities and two restaurants.

Proud of its Asian roots, Amari creates memorable experiences that embody the spirit of local culture as well as enhance the renowned traditions of Asian hospitality. Every Amari property shares the flavours and texture of its setting, so whether travelling for business or pleasure, guests will discover contemporary spaces where they can relax and enjoy their time.
Commenting on the proceedings, ONYX Hospitality Group President and CEO Peter Henley said: “We are thrilled to be breaking ground on our third project in Sri Lanka. Tourism is thriving and we think a full service hotel product like Amari will be very well-received in the market. The brand aims to provide guests with culturally enriched and memorable shared experiences, and with the array of historical sites and the warmth of Sri Lankan hospitality, Galle is an obvious location for our next Amari property.”

Sino Lanka Hotels Galle Ltd. owner Bob Kundanmal also expressed his excitement about the project: “We’re very excited to be introducing a new hospitality brand to Sri Lanka with Amari. With its proven track-record of hospitality excellence in Thailand and its renowned warmth and genuine service, we are sure this new property will appeal to business and leisure travellers alike. Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is growing rapidly, with 2.5 million tourists expected to arrive by 2016. This property, along with the other two OZOs in Colombo and Kandy will help to meet the projected demand for new hotel rooms around the island and contribute to Sri Lanka’s continued economic growth under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena.”
Amari is the centrepiece of the ONYX portfolio of hospitality brands, reflecting the warmth and energy of an evolving modern Asia. Amari’s network of properties spans Thailand and beyond, from scenic seaside locations to vibrant urban settings including Thailand, Qatar and Bangladesh. There are a further eight Amari projects in the pipeline in China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Maldives.