Archive for December, 2016

Fortress Resorts to build Rs.2.1bn 5-star property in Mirissa

La Forteresse (Private) Limited, a fully-owned subsidiary of Dhammika Perera-controlled Fortress Resorts PLC, has invested Rs. 364 million in a subsidiary, to go ahead with its previously planned Rs. 2.1 billion 5-star property in Mirissa.

La Forteresse had made the investment in Alila Hotels & Resorts (Pvt) Ltd to set up a 66-roomed 5-star hotel in Thalaramba, which is located within the tourism hotspot of Mirissa.

Fortress Resorts had disclosed the project in its latest annual report submitted to the Colombo Stock Exchange. The new hotel is estimated to cost Rs.2.1 billion, which includes the cost of land, valued at Rs.345.80 million.

Further capital infusion into Alila Hotels & Resorts is expected through sale of shares, since the market disclosure said that La Forteresse, which owns 99.99 percent of the shares in its subsidiary, will subsequently own 51 percent of the shares in Alila Hotels & Resorts through a dilution.

Business magnate Dhammika Perera, who also controls the Amaya Leisure hotel chain through Hayleys PLC, and who also purchased a hospitality subsidiary of Amaya for a premium last week, had noted in his annual review that Mirissa would become more prominent with Marriott opening a property neighbouring Weligama.

He had said that the new venture would take advantage of Mirissa’s “prospects as a renowmed paradise for whale watching, surfing and other water sports”, and the property would be similar to the one operated by its parent Fortress Resorts in Koggala.

The Fortress Resort & Spa in Koggala had posted a net profit of Rs. 23 million for the second quarter ended September 30, 2016 a 3 percent fall year-on-year (YOY), while for the six months that ended in September the company posted a net profit of Rs. 18.34 million, a 12 percent decline YOY.

he MJF Group which owns the Dilmah Tea brand, and is the second largest shareholder in Fortress Resorts, owns and operates the Cape Weligama resort nearby the planned property.

Sri Lanka’s tourist growth has been exceptional in recent years, albeit below the expectations of the government, and mainly being generated by the budget, informal sector.

According to the latest financial reports, Dhammika Perera, both directly and through various other holdings, controls 53.31 percent of the shares of Fortress Resorts, while the MJF Group and related parties own approximately 28.48 percent of the shares in the company.

The state-owned Bank of Ceylon is the third largest shareholder, owning 1.32 percent of the shares.

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Talking Tourism 

With Christmas just a day away and the holiday season well and truly upon us, the Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs Ministry this week held its Annual Tourism Festival on 22 and 23 December.

According to Tourism Development Minister John Amaratunga, the festival, which comes as Sri Lanka expects to attract a record 2 million tourist arrivals in 2016, was initiated partly as a result of tourist complaints surrounding the lack of sufficient entertainment after sunset. That these complaints were heeded is nothing other than a good sign. However, it does signal at some deep-seated issues.

While reactive measures might solve problems of the present, it’s only proactive decision-making that can take the country forward. Sri Lanka has been floundering around for years without a solid branding strategy, while also lacking a cohesive marketing strategy and campaign which should be a mutually-agreed upon private-public partnership (PPP). 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.

Another key problem repeatedly highlighted by the industry is the lack of accurate data. For years, the Government has been releasing numbers that do not differentiate between the formal and informal sectors adequately enough to understand how many foreigners are tourists, where they stay, how much they spend and their level of expectations. Without in-depth data, policymakers cannot understand the direction the industry should take, which affects the entire value chain.

But while these are all legitimate problems, which require a holistic change in approach to fix, there are still some ways that Sri Lanka’s global footprint can be increased in the short to medium term.

For a start, the Government could begin by adequately marketing Sri Lanka’s abundance of natural attractions. Marine life and shipwreck diving are potential cash cows that are being woefully under-utilised, with the only promotions of such activities coming through private individuals whose life work has been preserving and documenting its world class potential. The marketing doesn’t need to include a wholesale brand strategy, but simply liaising with travel agents and tour operators and offering special deals would suffice initially.

Next, a revamp of the Sri Lanka tourism ministry website is in order, where information on attractions is readily available for anyone who might simply Google ‘Sri Lankan vacation.’ In addition to this, the Tourism Ministry could also reach out to individuals already working in fields such as marine life research, and engage with them on what action needs to be taken to preserve and nurture the resources we already possess.

These are but a few simple proactive decisions that can be taken, and really is the least that can be done in order to better utilise the riches this nation has been blessed with. In recent years, the country’s slogan has veered from ‘Land Like No Other’ to ‘Small Miracle’ to ‘Wonder of Asia,’ without clearly communicating the island’s competitive advantage. If we continue on this path, there might not be a competitive advantage left to communicate.

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Sri Lanka Tourism astonishes Middle East with cultural splendour

Sri Lanka Tourism was able to show its Asian pride in the Middle East at the Winter Festival Consumer Promotion at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, held from 8-10 December.

This festival is a popular consumer event held annually in Dubai and in 2015 over 30,000 visitors attended the event. The festival is publicised through a campaign consisting of digital, TV, outdoor, radio, social media, SMS campaign, print advertising and editorial elements. The main objective of this participation was to create awareness about Sri Lanka as a major tourist hub and to attract investors to build important business partnerships. The Sri Lankan representation included a cultural and contemporary dance segment, a video presentation, the distribution of promotional material and giveaways and promotion of Ceylon Tea in the booth. Sri Lanka Tourism’s participation at this fair not only created awareness over various consumer products including herbs and spices, since Mediterranean spices are quite similar to those used in the Asian continent, but also as a tropical country which is blessed with natural resources.


The Middle Eastern region is one of the major tourist generating markets which is important to Sri Lanka and its tourism sector. Sri Lanka Tourism extended its promotional activities in Dubai in conjunction with the event, with the distribution of leaflets and flyers to supermarkets and schools and was also featured on the Dubai Winter Festival Facebook page which has more than 30,000 followers. Sri Lanka Tourism also collaborated with the Dubai Winter festival, at the same time dedicating HTML to a database of over 450,000 people.

The Sri Lankan stall captured the attention of those who participated at the fair since it was beautifully adorned with the main attractions of Sri Lanka, depicting it as a paradise island of the sun, sand and sea. A life-size statue of an elephant was a central attraction and ideal icon for photo shoots. For visitors it was a different experience altogether.

Up to November 2016, tourist arrivals from the Middle East numbered 100,914, which was an increase of 7.5% compared with the corresponding period of the previous year.


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Tourism Fest concludes after being major crowd-puller


Tourism Fest 2016, which was organised by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau in collaboration with the private and public sectors from 20-23 December, concluded recently after being a major attraction in Colombo.

This year the mega event attracted a large crowd of both the young and old. All the event’s sections, including the entertainment and cultural areas, were patronised by many people. This time more families were seen enjoying the festive fun. There were 20 food outlets including well-known restaurants and five star hotels, 21 private sector stalls and five Government stalls.

The three armed forces too contributed to the event by showcasing their skills through cultural activities.

The glamour and colour which was added by the dance troupes and the visit of Sabina Thorsen, Miss Sri Lanka in Europe, added a fairytale atmosphere to the festivities.

All the stalls had good sales, which depicted the success of the event. The iconic Christmas tree and the presence of Santa was a grand treat for the children, who were thrilled especially when Santa handed out Christmas candies to them.

Based on popular demand, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau has decided to organise the Tourism Fest for next year as well. The public’s participation in Tourism Fest was a clear indication that the new year will start with a cheerful tune and showed signs that Sri Lanka was indeed a major tourist attraction, especially with creative concepts like these to keep tourists interested in this wonderful paradise island.

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Rose Villa Heritage Homes to be first retirement home scheme in Jaffna

Retiring schemes are today considered one of the best long-term investments and for the first time in Jaffna, the Rose Villa Heritage Homes presents the perfect investment opportunity, for both senior citizens and interested investors.

Two of the proposed seven houses of phase one of the retirement scheme have already been purchased. In a bid to promote healthier, cleaner and peaceful living in tranquil surroundings, the present owner M. Yoga, an engineering professional based permanently in Norway, has begun the transformation of his property into a luxury retirement housing community.

With the infrastructure development across the country, Jaffna too is undergoing rapid rebuilding and construction, ensuring the long-term investment credibility of Rose Villa. The 6710 square meter expansive property itself is a unique selling proposition, located in Uduvil, an agricultural village that is now a developing residential area situated along the main Kankesanturai Road, 10 km north of Jaffna City.

The Inuvil railway station, Maruthanaarmadam and Chunnakam markets are all within a three kilometre radius from the property. The residents will also have easy access to cultural venues and religious places of worship, as well as the Northern Central Hospital in Jaffna for medical purposes. Direct telemedicine services will also be roped in from Canada.

Security, ambiance and easy access to support services have been the main points of focus in the construction of the housing scheme. Each housing unit will be 89 square meters with a six-perch land area per house. Each house will be fully furnished and consist of one large bedroom with en-suite bathroom, a walk-in closet area, kitchen with modern amenities, veranda, living and dining room.

Smartly designed to benefit the residents and their daily activities, Rose Villa units will include a home automation system, CCTV and fire safety systems, hot/cold water supply, electricity supply with a functioning solar panel system for backup power, telephone and WIFI Internet connection, laundry services and handicap facilities. Conveniently, there will be two separate rooms available on rent for family or friends visiting residents. As a gated community, around the clock security is guaranteed.

A total of 2813 square meters from the entire property will be used as the communal area, which will include a common garden with walkway and lighting, as well as a car park. An in-house caretaker will be tending to the public garden and communal areas where yoga lessons and gardening practices will be carried out for residents to promote overall wellness of mind and body. The management will also engage a service management company to provide other support services such as cleaning, cooking and maintenance of the homes, ensuring utmost comfort to the residents.

“Investment aside, Rose Villa has also created employment opportunities to the residents of Uduvil and neighbouring villages,” Yoga commented.

“We have set off a chain of economic developments that will benefit the area as a whole. We are looking forward to the successful completion of phase one of this project, to offer the new owners the independent lifestyle they invested in.”

With phase two of the construction, Rose Villa residents will be introduced to a more active social life, with a proposed clubhouse that is set to include a restaurant, laundry, room for rental, library, fitness centre and Ayurvedic spa, as well as a swimming pool.

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Aitken Spence Travels welcomes 1st TUI Charter from Nordic region


Reviving arrivals from Nordic region to Destination Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence Travels welcomed the first weekly Swedish charter recently. The dream liner operated by TUI, the largest global integrated tourism company carried 300 passengers on its maiden journey to Sri Lanka after a lapse of six years. Nordic consists of Swedish as well as Finnish charters and the first Finnish charter is also expected to arrive in Sri Lanka on 23 December. Staff of TUI and Aitken Spence Travels welcomed guests from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland on board this charter with a warm traditional Sri Lankan welcome with lotus flowers, dancers and drummers.

All guests on this charter will be enjoying, exploring and holidaying in different parts of Sri Lanka basking in the tropical sun on the golden sandy beaches, exploring the rich heritage and culture of our land and enjoying the flora and fauna of our country for a truly authentic holiday experience.

Commenting on the charter Managing Director Nalin Jayasundera stated, “This year has been a great year for us at Aitken Spence Travels and Destination Sri Lanka as a whole. We have managed to secure Charter operations from UK, Russia and the Nordic region. The growing inventory on rooms with many International brands setting up operations and some commencing business helps in securing charters, cruise operations as well as penetrating to new markets. We are keen to extend the signature brand of hospitality that only Sri Lanka is able to offer and are hopeful that these guests will leave Sri Lanka with memories to last a life time.”

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“I do’s” and more for Sri Lanka Tourism

The tourism industry is gearing to market Sri Lanka as a dream destination for not just leisure but also weddings with 200 Chinese set to wed in Colombo in a mass ceremony.

File picture of white water rafting, a popular activity among adventure travelersSri Lanka as one of the most sought after travel destinations in the world and fast becoming the most popular attraction in South Asia has become the target of Indian and Chinese weddings. In this regard, the Tourism and Christian Affairs Minister John Amaratunga announced in Parliament during the tourism ministry budget debate that reservations had already been made for a mass wedding of 200 Chinese in Colombo.

In the meantime, Sri Lanka is targeting 4.5 million tourists by 2020 and in this regard is set to achieve over two million arrivals by the end of this year, the minister said.

He explained that Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is currently growing at a rate of 15 per cent and was likely to achieve revenue in the range of over US$3.5 billion this year compared to the $3 billion gained in 2015.

By 2020 the country is set to achieve $10 billion in earnings from the tourism industry becoming the number one income generator in the economy.

The minister explained that he together with Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake had held discussions with online travel agencies like Agoda, Expedia hotel and Tripadvisor to enlighten them on the state plans to regularise the growing informal sector in the tourism industry. In this respect, the government is hoping to gain assistance from these agencies as well.

Minister Amaratunga asserted that investments into the sector are continuing with the latest being the US based-Radisson Hotel showing interest in establishing at least two hotels in Sri Lanka.

The state is looking at the growing niche segment for marketing like yachting, ballooning and another key segment medical tourism with a special emphasis on Ayurveda, the minister said.

In addition, it was pointed out that today Sri Lanka has been able to attract large cruise liners set to call at the Hambantota and Colombo ports added to the charters that have now resumed to the country on an improved scale.

Sri Lanka is also hoping to double the output of its skilled workforce to the sector in collaboration with the Don Bosco Training Institute, Aquinas Training Institute and Gangaramaya.

Moreover, the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) has introduced a new course titled a Certified Hospitality Finance Management Accountant Professional developed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka (ICASL).

The minister also noted that a promotional campaign would kick off as part of the international destination marketing campaign in the first quarter of next year that was held up due to government regulations and procedures.

During 2016 the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) had carried out 122 country specific promotion campaigns that included participation at 58 travel fairs, the minister said.

He also explained that the policy framework established for the industry by the government was in line with achieving these targets.

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