Sri Lanka tourism gears up for winter-sun season

New 4-star resort & city boutique hotel ready for launch in December

In anticipation of a fantastic winter-sun tourist season ahead, Sri Lanka’s hoteliers and the industry in general is gearing up to meet the demand head-on.  Hotel developments are being announced everyday and from every corner of this small island nation.

A new four-star 124-room hotel at Ranna, near Tangalle, and a 26-room boutique hotel on R.A. de Mel Mawatha intended for business travelers will be opened in December, the chief promoter, Mr. Arun K. Thapar, Managing Director of Auro Holdings Pte Ltd. said in Colombo on Friday.

He said that four Sri Lankan investors have joined him in these projects, but preferred not to name them.

In addition to the two hotels that are part complete and ready for launch, and 25 acres of land purchased outright in Kalpitiya for development of a resort, the group has already invested USD 16 million here, he said.

Thapar who has been in Sri Lanka for over 33 years since 1978, grew in the garments industry and has in the last 10 years ventured into resort hotels in the Maldives where he runs three properties with a total of 276 rooms.

The construction of the southern hotel, named Ranna212 as the turn-off to the property is on the 212th kilometer post, had cost $ 10 million with the construction undertaken by Access, Thapar said.

He sees massive opportunity by locating there as, in addition to a magnificent virgin 60-meter beach frontage, the economic activity in the Hambantota regions where there is an acute paucity of quality accommodation, offers enormous scope.

“There’s the port development, the new airport at Mattala, the stadium where international test cricket has already been played and the bid for the Commonwealth Games – all this adds to the potential,’’ he said.

Additionally, the Yala National Park is not far off, whale watching on Mirissa, a bird sanctuary near Ranna, the Kalametiya lagoon and a host of other attractions are conveniently accessible.

The hotel at Ranna began as a joint venture between a local and a group of Italian investors which Auro acquired for USD 3.5 million. Total investment in upgrading and refurbishing this project stands at USD 10 million.

The December opening will cover 54 rooms on phase 1 with the balance 70 rooms ready by next July, the company said.

“We had an inquiry today for a 30-member Russian group for 10 days in December,’’ Thapar said on Friday.

The boutique business hotel named Colombo Courtyard will have a rooftop café and ground plus two upper floors. The original structure of what was previously an office building near the German Embassy has been retained and most of the rooms will have their own courtyards.

Mr. Reyhan Morris who worked in the Maldives has returned to Sri Lanka to be the GM of Ranna212 while Mr. Pulinda Fernando who began his hotel career at the Taj Lanka will be GM of Colombo Courtyard.

Thapar who sits on the boards of a dozen companies in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and one incorporated in Canada said that some hydro and wind power projects by his group is under negotiation.

The two hotel projects ready for takeoff have been funded on a debt equity basis with Seylan and HNB being the lenders.


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