Raban playing and coconut toffee add local touch to new Anantara Peace Haven

At first glance, the 152-keys Anantara Peace Haven opening on Tuesday, December 1 in Tangalle is like any other 5-star resort with an international brand to boot! But looking closer, the Bangkok-based Asian premium brand which is growing rapidly across the world has far more to offer than any other resort in Sri Lanka.

The 21-acre site of the hotel built out of a total of 42 acres held by the joint Minor Hotel Group ( MHG)-Hemas Holdings joint venture, is a revelation itself. “This is unlike any other 5-star property. This is an incredibly unique site a premium itself,” says Abbas Esufally, Group Director of Hemas Holdings, as he enthusiastically discusses the group’s latest and most exciting product, sitting in his 9th floor office in Colombo.

When the hotel opens its doors on Tuesday, guests will be given an unfamiliar greeting on arrival: three women dressed in traditional attire, playing the rabana accompanied by a conch shell blower.

The king coconut welcome drink may be too familiar but families with young children are in for a surprise. If they arrive during the day, they get a ride on an authentic bullock cart!

The owners are proud of the fact that this is the only resort in Sri Lanka, costing US$52.5 million to build and has a state-of-the-art staff complex estimated at Rs. 325 million. It has 93 staff apartments that can accommodate 255 people, two cafes that can cater to over 150, a library with books and computers (with separate work stations, a mini market, a recreation room and one of the largest staff gyms with the latest cardiovascular and weight equipment, among other facilities.

“We want the staff to be happy and contended. Only a happy staff will provide service with a smile and go that extra mile to make sure guests are comfortable and all their needs met,” Mr. Esufally, who oversees the group’s leisure business, told the Business Times.

The Anantara Peace Haven has 120 rooms and 32 one bedroom pool villas which will sell upwards of $400 to $600 a night during peak times.

There are no immediate plans for the balance 21-acre land but being seriously considered to build residential villas for sale.

“An advantage is that we have a private beach. Private villas for sale, is a concept all over Asia. High net worth individuals want to buy or timeshare apartments. They buy these units as a second home or as an investment and give to the hotel to manage,” he said.

Mr. Esufally believes this is the future of tourism and on a financial modelling this is really what make a project like this (Anantara Tangalle) viable. “Heavy investments at 5-star level pay back only in 5-12 years and make it almost unviable for an investor. But this model (selling apartments) gives us cash up front,” he noted.

The expansive resort has added many new features not often seen in most properties here and is part of the uniqueness of the Anantara brand to blend with local customs, according to hotel officials.

For example, in the evening when the room is prepared for the night, staff will place Sri Lankan sweets – coconut or jaggery toffee – instead of the traditional chocolate.

Electric tuk tuks are available for guest use on the resort and for hire to nearby areas while electric rickshaws will transport guests to their villas.

The ‘Guru’ experience will figure prominently as part of the service. Officials said this is an Anantara hallmark to hire experts in specific areas to share their expertise with guests. The resort will have Wine and Tea Experience Gurus.

During certain meal times e.g. breakfast, the resort will showcase local artisans and invite them to display their craft in front of the guests like curd making, wood carving, etc.

Spice Spoons is a cooking class where the chef will take guests to the local village, local market, fish market, etc where they can see local produce, engage with local traders and then cook an authentic local meal together with the chef.

The hotel with over 230 staff has 30 local executives with international experience having worked in brands like Ritz Carlton, Jumeirah, Marriott and Rotana. Some 20 per cent of the Sri Lankan staff is from Tangalle while 24 per cent of the employees are female.

The Anantara resort has restaurants, a wine cellar and a high tea lounge.

A second Anantara branded property – the Anantara Kalutara Resort – is scheduled to open in March 2016. Serendib Leisure Management Ltd– the leisure arm of Hemas Holdings manages Hotel Sigiriya and Club Hotel Dolphin and the internationally branded hotels AVANI Bentota Resort & Spa and AVANI Kalutara Resort.

Minor Hotel Group (MHG) is a hotel owner, operator and investor, currently with a portfolio of 135 hotels, resorts, camps and serviced suites in operation under brands like Anantara, AVANI, PER AQUUM among others. It operates over 17,000 rooms in 22 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America and has ambitious plans to grow the hotel group to 190 properties.

Source : http://epaper.dailymirror.lk/epaper/viewer.aspx

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