“With many new prospects for the local tourist hotel industry the times are indeed exciting”, said Jayantissa Kehelpannala, the newly appointed President of the Hotels Association of Sri Lanka addressing its 47th Annual General Meeting recently.
“The on-going question regarding the positioning of the country’s tourism product is whether Sri Lanka should be positioned as a cheap or an expensive destination. I personally think that it is better for us to attract the high end tourists considering the compactness, authenticity and diversity of the country”, said Anura Lokuhetty, Immediate Past President of the Association.
It was noted that it will take some time for Sri Lanka to become an up market destination. We will have to go through the cycle to become an up market destination, which is certainly required considering all aspects of tourism including the human resource factor. In order to reach that level, finding Human resources with necessary training will be an ongoing challenge for Sri Lanka tourism. Even the Sri Lanka Hotel School has taken necessary steps to expand the training facilities to meet up with the HR demand to cater to the targeted arrivals in year 2016. It is encouraging to note that even other large companies in the hospitality industry have come forward in expanding the training in the travel and tourism industry.
“With the dawn of much awaited peace, tourism was on an upward spiral, having to work towards achieving the target of receiving 2.5 Million tourists by 2016. When we look back at the past two years we can be happy with the achievements we have achieved in Sri Lanka tourism,” said Lokuhetty. He further stated that THASL and Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators prepared a master plan with necessary strategies to achieve the target of receiving 2.5 Million tourists by year 2016 and stated that they have stayed ahead with the targets. He expressed confidence about going beyond the set target in the year ahead as well. He further noted that “whilst we can be happy about the last two and half years arrivals, we need to go with a much more aggressive and systematic marketing plan without any further delay to maintain the momentum to reach our target”.
Lokuhetty also appreciated the Government for having been able to improve the country’s image amongst the foreign investors and there by attracting the international chains such as Shangri-La, Movenpick, Ritz Carlton and many other regional groups. He said that this will certainly improve Sri Lanka’s exposure in the international market and will help their international campaign.
Jayantissa Kehelpannala the Executive Vice President/Sector Head – Resort Hotels of John Keells Hotels PLC was elected as the President of the association. Four Vice presidents were elected are Shanthikumar (Ramada Colombo), Siri Goonewardena (Coral Sands Hotel Ltd), Asoka Hettigoda (Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health Resort) and Susith Jayawickrama (Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings Ltd). Ten Members were elected to the Managing Committee of THASL. Royal Heritage Hotel (Pvt) Ltd – Jetwing Vil Uyana and Hotel Renuka were elected to represent the hotels with less than 50 Rooms, while Club Palm Bay, Avani Bentota Resort and Spa, Golden Star Beach Hotel, Amaya Lake, Taj Samudra Hotel, Heritance Kandalama and Tangerine Beach Hotel represent the Hotels with more than 50 Rooms.
Ranil de Silva (Avani Bentota Resort and Spa) was elected as the Treasurer for the Association while Anura Lokuhetty joined the committee in his capacity as the Immediate Past President of the Association. The Association has a membership of 163 hotels, representing the small, medium and large hotels.