Industry veteran Prema Cooray was bestowed with the ‘Legend’ status at the fifth Sri Lanka Tourism Awards.
Among his key achievements were leading and developing Sri Lanka’s premier hotel chain Aitken Spence (1984 to 2003); and taking Sri Lanka’s hospitality expertise overseas to the Maldives in 1991and building the first-ever resort (Club Rannahli) by a Sri Lankan company (1996).
This development was followed by the addition of many resorts and is probably the best investment made by Aitken Spence in its long history.
Many other local hotel companies have followed suit and thereby have created many job opportunities for Sri Lankans and substantial earnings in foreign exchange.
Prema also gave leadership to the development of the famous Kandalama Hotel (1994), creating a new dimension in Sri Lanka’s tourism landscape. Kandalama’s contribution to sound environmental management, excellent cuisine and service, and its interaction with the community has received world acclaim.
As Chairman of the USAID-supported Tourism Cluster (2000-2008), he gave leadership to the concept ‘Beyond Beaches to Nature, Culture & Adventure’. This initiative has enabled Sri Lanka to profile its diversity to the desired potential. Prema also pioneered the development of the first-ever Eco-Lodge Best Practice Pilot project bordering Sinharaja forest (2006 onwards). This signalled the first-ever private sector-led national initiative to showcase Sri Lanka’s entry into eco tourism.
As Chairman of the Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (2007-2009), he played a key role in developing MICE business from all across India.