By Cheranka Mendis
Readying itself to reap the maximum benefits from the expected boom in arrivals, Colombo Fort Hotels Limited has commenced refurbishment of two of its hotels with plans in the pipeline for expansions and new property development in the near future.
Colombo Fort Hotels General Manager Marketing Shiran Gunawardena stated that refurbishing and upgrading had already begun at all its three hotels – Sigiriya Village, Sigiriya; The Palms, Beruwala; and Club Palm, Marawila – and that they would be completed in time for the winter season.
With the majority of the clientele coming in from the UK, Germany, Eastern Europe and Middle East, Gunawardena expects the coming season to be “full-up”.
“In Sigiriya village we hope to renovate rooms in all four clusters. Currently we are working on the ‘Kings Harbour’ cluster, which has 20 rooms. We aim at creating a Sigiriya Fortress atmosphere in these rooms. It is quite modern but it is in keeping with the whole theme of Sigiriya itself,” he said. The rooms have been made larger, the washrooms expanded and décor improved.
Soft refurbishment has also started in the clusters ‘Ganga Addara’ and ‘Ayurveda,’ which have 20 rooms each. Started two months ago, all refurbishments will be completed by November. The hotel has two more clusters – ‘Paddy’ and ‘Temple’ – which will also be under renovation soon.
“All rooms have been decorated to suit the title of the cluster,” Gunawardena explained. “For example rooms in the ‘Paddy’ cluster have a typical village concept going on. Everything is concentrated around the village with its rustic look. Step out and the scenery opens up to a ‘kamatha’ and a ‘wee-bissa’. It’s unique and appeals to the tourists.”
Gunawardena stated that the hotel was built protecting the environment and that no tree had been cut down within the property. “This was one of the main reasons for us to go for clusters. This property has preserved its wilderness, which adds to its beauty. Some even call it a jungle retreat,” he said.
Located just beyond the North Western coast of Sri Lanka, Club Palm Bay Marawila houses 100 rooms, all of which are currently under renovation. Surrounded by the lagoon, the hotel has been in operation for the past 16 years.
“We are renovating all the rooms in the hotel. The pool bar, which is also under renovation, will be ready by end August.” The hotel is the only one to be built as an all-inclusive facility in the group. Refurbishment of its conference hall and ballroom has already been completed and they ready for use.
He stated that with Marawila now being increasingly popular as a tourism destination, more and more business was heading the hotel’s way. With Kalpitiya, which is famous for dolphin watching, only a few miles away, many guests have booked lodging for the next few months. “If anyone wants a quiet holiday surrounded with water, this is an ideal location.”
Rebranded five years ago, The Palms, Beruwala needs no refurbishment yet, Gunawardena said. “With its choices of restaurants and famous seafood platter along with modern rooms, the hotel has all the comforts a tourist might need.”
However, the 100-room hotel is looking at adding a conference hall to double as a wedding reception hall. “We are hoping to do up a couple of suites up as well,” he added.
The company hopes to expand its hotel chain to two more properties, one in Kandy and another in Trincomalee. “With the boom in tourism expected and the positive vibe we have received from both local and foreign tourists for our existing properties, we are keen to gear up for the future,” Gunawardena said.
He assured that occupancy levels had increased significantly since the end of war and 2010 had been a good year for the company. “The target now is to attract new markets such as the Middle East and India, which has an ever-expanding middle class. If we are able to get these tourists, we would be able to strike a balance between the winter time tourists from the West and the usually dull period.”
Gunawardena stated that the company was likely to tie-up with a Swedish charter company during the winter period to bring in tourists.