This reporter, on a bus ride from from Kollupitiya, en route to an assignment at the World Trade Centre (WTC) on Monday, saw soldiers, stationed on the seaside of Galle Road, with their guns pointing towards the roads and buildings, including at some hotels that way. I don’t know whether a similar scene was enacted on the landside of Galle Road, from Kollupitiya to Fort as well.
The assignment was to cover the opening of a coffee shop at WTC. When I recalled my bus ride experience to Ashvin Mohinani , one of two local investors (the other being Godfrey Aloysius, whose father founded Free Lanka Trading) of this project, who holds “The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf,” a US brand’s franchise here, and who was optimistic about the growth of tourism and investments in relation to business at his eatery, despite interjecting the phrase, “with the finger on the trigger” when I recalled my observations, an admittance of the situation here.
The winter tourism season is to begin next month. “But it was worse before,” continued Mohinani. “One doesn’t get such scenes in tourism hotspots like Singapore and Malaysia,” I countered and asked him whether he had brought this negative feature to the notice of the authorities? He replied in the affirmative and was optimistic that these drawbacks would disappear with time.
“That’s why I invited Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa for the opening,” said Mohinani, who already runs two such coffee shops in the city and in the airport respectively. He was reluctant to disclose financials, other than saying that his airport outlet, opened in 2007, was beginning to turnaround, while his outlet at Horton Place Colombo, opened a year later, saw sales grow by 12% year on year. Constraining factors? The duty on imported coffee being 150%. What about using local coffee? “They are not roasted properly.
In fact Ethiopian coffee (one of six country of origin coffees used in his business; Colombian, Costa Rican and Brazilian coffees to name a few being others)) is sent to Germany for roasting,” claimed Mohinani. Germany is the best place to roast coffee, he said. What about tea?
“We serve 31 different types of tea,” replied Mohinani. He stressed the importance of more international brands having a play in the economy with tourism and investments looking up, the presence of armed soldiers with their fingers on the triggers notwithstanding.
Mohinani said that the NGO community, mostly funded by First World foreign missions here, were some of his key customers.