By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s first-ever luxury yacht was unveiled on Wednesday by Sri Lanka Luxury Yachts (Pvt) Ltd.
The yacht, purchased from Dubai at an investment of Rs. 59 million after months of extensive study conducted in all parts of the world, will be the first of many more to come to Sri Lanka.
|The trio who owns the yacht: Directors of Sri Lanka Luxury Yachts Nissanka Senadipathi, Prasantha Jayamanna and S.N. Kumar at the launch
Sri Lanka Luxury Yachts Director Prasantha Jayamanna told the Daily FT that under phase one, two more yachts of smaller sizes would be bought down within the next one-and-a-half years at an estimated investment of Rs. 50 million.
The entire cost of the project to bring down the yacht, train the crew on engine, safety conditions, etc. amounted to Rs. 78 million.
Bought down from Dubai, the luxury yacht with a five-star interior is a brand new one, Jayamanna said. Marketing it as a ‘floating paradise’ for vacations, get-togethers and corporate meetings, the main target customers will be high net worth individuals from Sri Lanka.
“In a foreign country, yachts are nothing special. It’s a millionaires’ thing. But here in Sri Lanka we want to market it at a reasonable cost offering to share this unique experience with the locals. Our target is to not just offer this for tourists, but 75% for locals. We are convinced there is a good market for such new products in the country,” he asserted.
The yacht has already been pre-booked for the next few months, he said. Offered under various packages such as evening package, sunset cruise, etc., the lowest package is the use of the yacht for one hour decked at the port for Rs. 25,000.
He stated that for four hours the yacht would be rented out for Rs. 150,000 and for 10 hours including two meals for 20 people for US$ 2,500 (Rs. 280,000.) The yacht should ideally be booked two days prior to the event date.
Starting from Colombo, the yacht can travel to Kalpitiya, Aluthgama, Ambalangoda, Hikkaduwa, Hambantota, Oluwil and Trincomalee. The speed is said to be 50 km per hour, while the yacht is manned by ex-Sri Lanka Naval officers.
The company hopes to recover its investment within a period of five years and achieve breakeven within the next two years. “It is not a business calculation we have on this project; rather we want to introduce something new and become pioneers in the sector.”
Tax component for the yacht lies between 23 to 24%, he said. He revealed that he, along with his partners S.N. Kumar and Nissanka Senadipathi, spent well over eight to nine months studying the movement of business and models around the world especially in Dubai and Male and took another four to five months to obtain various approvals to bring down the yacht.
It was not an easy task bringing in the yacht, Jayamanna commented. “Firstly there are no loans in the prevailing system for yacht registration and we have to go through the standard registration system. Even for a Letter of Credit (LC) opening, we had to persuade the bodies and our credibility had to be indicated in order for the process to happen,” he said. The group also had to charter a special ship to bring in the yacht from Dubai which added to its expenses and on the Government and cabinet front, rules had to be made flexible to include yachts in the system whereas previous regulations only included ships.
Kumar stated that when the idea of a yacht was put through, the initial reaction was that it was an impossible and commercially nonviable task. “Our friends thought it was a dream, but now we have the luxury of travelling around this island destination,” he said.
“It was not an easy task and it is not just about the money. There were many challenges since this was the first time a yacht was brought to Sri Lanka. Logistical issues as well as technical details had to be thoroughly studied over months to grasp the subject of yachts.”
Pix by Upul Abayasekara
With tourism expected to boom and 2.5 million targeted by 2015, Sri Lanka needs more unique products and services to compete with the likes of Singapore and Thailand, Senadipathi said. “There is excitement and opening into luxury living. It is now time for Sri Lanka to experience something new and we are happy to have been able to bring this unique concept to the country.”