By Cheranka Mendis
Pioneers in ayurvedic hospitals and resorts, Hettigoda Group yesterday ceremonially opened its newly renovated Siddhalepa Ayurveda Health Resort in Wadduwa.
The resort which has been completely renovated and refurbished at a cost of Rs. 150 million in a period of two months is looking at expanding and adding more features within the next few months valued at Rs.10-20 million.
The renovation which is the first in 11 years of operation has upgraded the facilities to international standards in preparation of the expected surge of tourism arrivals. The Resort was open to guests from August even though ceremonious launch happened yesterday in the presence of Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa.
Speaking to Daily FT Managing Director of the Group Asoka Hettigoda stated that renovation has been in the drawing board for some time now and that the Group thought it is timely to start on its plans. With the idea now paused to expand the concept of ayurvedic hotels, resorts and spas throughout Sri Lanka, especially in the city; the Group is also looking at investing healthy doses of its wealth on similar projects in the near future.
“Every hotel must go through renovations to confer to the new tourism trend in the country. With Sri Lanka being featured as an up market destination, it is important to up the quality and standard levels in line with the rates offered,” Hettigoda said. Keeping to his words, he noted that all restaurants, health centres and rooms have been completely refurbished giving the resort a more modern feel than before. The pool has been reconstructed while new restaurants and health centres have also been added to the portfolio,” he said, “the only thing that remained static is the number of rooms at the resort. We have not increased the number and it still remains at 50 rooms.”
Hettigoda commented, “Today if you want to create an impression you have to go the extra mile. You must concentrate on the details.”
With the world focusing more on health and natural remedies, Ayurveda is gaining increasing popularity in the global arena. For Siddhalepa, this means better times ahead. With its top current clientele coming from Germany, Switzerland, Austria closely followed by tourists from Italy, UK, Scandinavian countries and Japan, the Resort has also witnessed increasing interests from the local community.
Speaking on the importance of Ayurveda for tourism, Hettigoda assured that Ayurveda is a concept that can attract tourists throughout the year. “You don’t have to market it for the sunshine or wait for their winter periods. Health is among the top three priorities in anyone’s lives, be it for those in the West or the newly industrial nations,” he expressed.
“People are moving away from chemicals to natural remedies. Ayurveda completes the system. It is a holistic system and a lifestyle project.”
He claimed that with the Resort offering yoga lessons and meditation on top of the ayurvedic medicines and spa treatments etc, the demand is more since of recent times.
“Everyone comes here. Writers, journalists and a few weeks back we even had an Australian film director here.” Being a lifestyle project, the Resort promotes the over 150 products that have been produced by the Group to its visitors.
The Group which operates four ayurvedic spas internationally – two in Germany, one each in Slovakia and Czech Republic is also recognised as the first Sri Lankan brand to franchise outside Sri Lanka. Having made the move seven years back, Hettigoda stated that the Group is enjoying success in the global market. Under its association with SriLankan Airlines, the Group was also the first to facilitate a spa in the business class lounge in the airline and is connected to the ‘FlySmiles’ programme network.
With a wide range of products under it’s name, Hettigoda Group also provides customised spa and hotel amenities to some of Sri Lanka’s and Maldives’s top hotels and resorts. “We are one of the major players in Maldives catering to five and six star hotels,” he said.
With the sector aiming for growth, the only hindrance comes from the many low profiled institutions that classify themselves as ‘ayurvedic spas. “We must promote this and immediately enforce and implement minimum standards for classification,” he warned. “Every joker calls themselves ayurvedic spas; and this has caused a lot of problems. Guests are not only misled but Ayurveda which we pride ourselves as a part of culture and heritage is also misquoted”, he added.
Pix by Samantha Perera