$ 20 million in the pipeline to jumpstart hospitality sector

Wednesday, 4 May 2016 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shehana Dain

In a bid to rev the hospitality service sector in Sri Lanka, the Swiss Institute of Hospitality and Banking will infuse $ 20 million in the next four years partnering with its Swiss and local counterparts.56

The Swiss Institute is backed by several organisations in Switzerland; namely Swiss Hospitality Academy in Lucerne, the BBZ Academy of Banking from St. Gallen, the heartland of education in Switzerland, the consultancies Business Aligned Services & Solutions AG and Chancental Works GmbH.

The establishment which claims to be the world’s first service industry training institute in Asia is set to be launched on 5 May and will kick off with the opening of the school which is estimated to use up $ 1.1 million from its set budget.

Noting that the first programs will commence in June Swiss Institute CEO Rohith Delikhan said he projects the enrolment of 1,300 students by year end and will use fully equipped mobile units to access more remote locations in the island nation by November.

The second phase of the projects will constitute of planning commencement for the campus and a budget hotel for training with 100 keys aligning with the Swiss model. The two projects are expected to cost around $ 7 million each.

“We are hoping that at that given rate by the end of 2017, over 3,000 will have completed programs and within five years the annual intake will be 10,000. By then a residential campus within Colombo outskirts and a budget hotel, where hospitality students will be able to practice what we preach, will be in operation. This is the Swiss model,” Delikhan told the reporters.

Elaborating further on the budget hotel he pointed out that the investors are currently looking at properties in the East and West coasts of Sri Lanka.

“We are looking for a resort type location but no final plans have been made yet and it’s still subject to discussions with the Government as to where we should build it. However we have received tremendous support from local hoteliers who have been asking us to send our very first batch for training in their hotels and some big hotel groups have shown interest to invest as well.”

The final phase of the program will include the construction of a Marina which is a specially designed harbour with moorings for pleasure yachts and small boats. Subsequently students will receive on the job training at the venue. According to Delikhan the Swiss Institute will engage with the Government in order to erect the third under water museum in the world, in Sri Lanka. Currently there are two other similar properties in Cancun Mexico and in Turkey. Both the projects are estimated to cost $ 4 million and following the completion of the proposed projects within a timeline of six years the total investment by the Swiss institute of Banking and Hospitality is expected to be financially viable by 2021.

“We also want to build a Marina and train people how to run a Marina because you can build Marinas but not many people know how to run them. We also want to create a new asset for this country an underwater museum which will be the third in the world. This could be a major tourist attraction. The fundamental of such a museum is very clear water and the clearest water is in the East coast of island.” Elaborating on the underwater museum Delikhan declared that the idea is not to build a mere building underwater and citing an example he said that one could build mini replicas of great tourism sites of Sri Lanka such as Sigiriya or Anuradhapura. Underwater museums are also considered eco-friendly by environmentalists as it elevates fish population coral growth and therefore leads to sustainable tourism. Furthermore Sri Lanka Institute of Training and Hotel Management (SLITHM) Chairman Sunil Dissanayake commended the initiative taken by the Swiss institute while stressing that it would boost the much needed man power output to the hospitality sector.

“For the new hotels that are coming up by end of next year we will need an additional 23,000 people to man these new hotels, which mean about 12,000 per year and from that SLITHM has an output targeted of only 6,000 a year. So more hotel schools of this nature coming online are vital to meet the demand of the tourism sector and we welcome it,” Dissanayake added.

In terms of employment last year 132,000 employees were directly in the hotel and restaurants industry and by 2020 the requirement will be approximately around 242,000 and SLITHM has estimated that it can only cover 50% of the demand and if infrastructure is further developed it could go up to 70%.

A complete program with full Swiss certification will cost around Rs. 70,000-75,000 and student loans are available. This is claimed to be only 10% of the price in Switzerland. The official website is www.passport2career.com; if the hospitality and banking courses are proven financially viable the Swiss Institute will move into logistics, healthcare and certification services. The initial program portfolio consists of a major Train-The-Trainer program for hospitality and banking professionals in Sri Lanka to become certified Swiss standards trainers. This will be followed by a complete range of certification courses in hospitality from housekeeping, concierge and butler services, receptionist and front office roles, to food and beverages and kitchen training leading to a full diploma in hospitality. On the banking front they hope to bring the first client advisor certification programs modelled after the Swiss and Singapore competency standards for the financial industry.

Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera