Jaffna wants to tap into tourism boom

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  • Officials sign agreement for increased domestic tourists but want upgraded facilities for foreign travellers
By Shabiya Ali Ahlam Jaffna tourism officials are eyeing a boost of local tourists but insist key development measures need to take place before the north can tap into the lucrative foreign traveller boom in other regions of Sri Lanka. In an effort increase the flow of domestic tourists into the region the Northern Province Tourism Association (NPTA) last week signed an agreement with Lanka Travel Eye. The venture aims at promoting though its website Jaffna and the experiences it has to offer, the association is confident the number of visitors and revisits will increase. With the war having ended NPTA President T. Thilagaraj pointed there is huge potential to attract locals into the region as they are curious to visit the region that had been restricted to them for about three decades. Highlighting the lack of development in Jaffna in making it attractive for foreign travellers, Thilagaraj said the region has seen very little progress in promoting it as a tourism destination and the essentials elements are yet to be established. “Jaffna has received less focus. Although the Government aims at making Sri Lanka a tourism hub Jaffna has not received much support. There is not even an office or a Government representative to look at tourism related activities. When we ask them for guidance and support, we are told to wait,” Thilagaraj told the Daily FT. He stressed the need of further developing the infrastructure to allow tourists to have easy access to that region. Although the road network is complete and train services will soon be extended from Pallai to Jaffna, Thilagaraj said it is imperative to introduce air transport. Noting it will be the preferred mode of transport to Jaffna, he said: “Foreign travellers require such facilities. In the current scenario, a two way trip to Jaffna by road costs approximately Rs. 28,000 and a flight to Singapore costs Rs. 36,000. This shows that travel to Jaffna in expensive. To Trincomalee and back it would cost about Rs. 4,000 and to Hambantota it is around Rs. 3,000. We need to make Jaffna seem attractive and affordable.” Thilagaraj also drew attention to the lack of star class accommodation and skilled workforce to service the hotel sector. According to him there are only a handful of hotels of the required standards and it is imperative for the Government to focus on bringing in investors so more hotels are put up as well as training of support staff for the ventures. With regard to the lack of skilled workforce available to service the hotel sector, he stressed the need of opening a hotel school in the region. “There are enough people to work and they are on the search for jobs. Having a hotel school will ensure there is a continuous supply of a trained workforce to service the hotels. This will not only help tourism but will help in increasing the economic development in Jaffna,” he said. Thilagaraj noted that although Jaffna was severely affected by the war for 30 years, the city is still of interest to tourists for its temples, islands and beautiful landscapes. “Jaffna has a greater potential to attract tourists than any other region of the country, but we see less interest from the Government for that. We are not seeing much happening in that region. We hope it will receive some emphasis in the future,” expressed Thilagaraj.

 A whole new level

  • Cantaloupe unveils second hotel, says third property with $ 3.1m investment to be opened in 2015
Cantaloupe Hotels unveiled its second hotel yesterday built in the southern tourist hotspot of Rumassala and outlined progress on its third property as well. Cantaloupe Hotels was initiated as the parent company of the hotel chain with an initial investment outlay of $ 400,000, to launch its first property, Cantaloupe Aqua, in 2010. Following its success as a sought-after leisure destination in Unawatuna, the second property project Cantaloupe Levels in Galle was initiated last year with an investment of $ 600,000, and is expected to be opened in September 2014. The company also noted Cantaloupe Hotels has specialised in exploiting strong demand on the southern coast from high-spending tourists from Europe and Asian emerging markets. Cantaloupe Hotels is now expanding its reach with a third property development in Midigama (three km before Weligama), Cantaloupe Soul Surf, a 30-room beach resort and surf school. The development currently under construction is expected to open in July 2015. The total cost of the project investment is $ 3.1 million and is currently at phase 1, funded internally by Cantaloupe Hotels and the rest through private placement of representing a 43% shareholding of Grand Surf, a fully-owned subsidiary of Cantaloupe Hotels, to be raised to finance the final phase of the project. “Today we are pleased to announce Cantaloupe Levels; a nine-room boutique type hill top property located near the peak of the mythical Rumassala hill. Levels is our second property under the Cantaloupe Hotels portfolio. As a concept, Levels will be a sub brand for hill top properties we are looking to conceptualise and develop in the medium to long term,” said Cantaloupe Founder/CEO Dmitri Jayasuriya. The hotel will also in essence be a walk-through gallery representing all things Sri Lankan ranging from wildlife, heritage, design and culture, all presented in a pop art format, he noted. “Service at Levels will literally be taken to another level with unique and creative personal services comparable to those provided to you by world-renowned concierge services. We are hoping to redefine world-famous Sri Lankan hospitality and culture by creating a singular combination of consideration, authenticity and warmth,” added Jayasuriya. Cantaloupe also launched its new Cantaloupe Hotels corporate logo and identity. The logo combines the fundamental Cantaloupe signatures such as the crowns, the colours of Cantaloupe, and subtle representation of different divisions of the group; also incorporating the colours of the Sri Lankan flag into the Cantaloupe crown.