One of the country’s biggest resort hotel projects kicked off yesterday along the `Golden Mile’ on the Beruwela coast when Economic Development and Investment Minister Basil Rajapaksa laid the foundation stone for the three billion rupee Chaaya Bey hotel, a 200-room four-star property on 11 acres of beachfront land.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa later visited the site and examined plans for the luxury property due to be completed in 20 months as its owners, the John Keells Holdings Group (Chaaya Hotels & Resorts), the country’s biggest conglomerate, gears to take advantage of the anticipated tourism boom.
“We are quite excited by the prospects,’’ JKH Chairman Susantha Ratnayake said on site. “The tourism industry is buoyant and we want to capitalize on the opportunity and have committed Rs. 6 billion for new projects – building new properties and refurbishing existing ones.’’
Ratnayake said that JKH has both the organizational and financial capability to seize the unprecedented development opportunities that have opened up, particularly in the leisure industry.
The new hotel is coming up on what was previously the location of Hotel Bayroo that was flattened by the December 2004 tsunami. JKH acquired the adjoining five acres too to build the new hotel whose Rs. 3 billion price tag includes the cost of land acquisition.
Among the new projects in the JKH pipeline is an upmarket hotel at Pulmoddai in the East where the Yan Oya flows into the sea, refurbishing Habarana Lodge into a five-star and expanding Reefcomber at Hikkaduwa to a new look hotel with 154 rooms against the previous 64.
“We are also looking at new developments in the South where there is plenty of scope,’’ Ratnayake said.
JKH Deputy Chairman Ajit Gunawardene said that seafront land in the South is hard to find and the `Golden Mile’ was the most sought location.
“Bey with 200 rooms and an array of restaurants will be a benchmark for quality and class in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry,’’ he promised. “It will play a significant part in bridging the deficit (of quality accommodation) on the Southern coast.’’
by Harischandra Gunaratna