Unawatuna Beach Resort comes under Calamander Group
Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:00
Sri Lanka’s most famous beach resort re-launches as Calamander Unawatuna Beach
Investment increases to Rs. 1.35 billion as the resort is completely rebuilt
The two new wings adds up to 85 rooms comprising; 55 Deluxe rooms of 25 sq.m., eight Super Deluxe Rooms of 30 sq.m and 22 Luxury rooms of 45 sq.m
Text and pix by Sarah Hannan
My last visit to the bay of Unawatuna was in 2010 and many of the beach side hotels were in a dilapidated state. By the tail end of 2013 during a brief visit to Unawatuna, I witnessed the facelift of the most famous Unawatuna Beach Resort (UBR). I was quite delighted by the fact that Calamander Group Incorporation – the developer has completely rebuilt the hotel conserving its original layout. The Singapore-based investor bought the hotel in October 2011 for nearly Rs. 1 billion and completely rebuilt the entire set of original buildings, infrastructure and restaurant with a further investment of Rs. 350 million on redevelopment. Amidst the preparation for the re-launch, Calamander Group Inc. Founder and Chairman Roman Scott shared his experience on the process of rebuilding UBR with Daily FT:
Q: Why did you select Sri Lanka to invest?A: With the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka Calamander Group Inc. was among the first investors who contributed towards rebuilding the economy of Sri Lanka. Being a real-estate developer our main target was investing on the real estate business to redevelop and reposition older properties. However it took us two more years to get in to real estate development in Sri Lanka. Being an economist myself, the vision of the Government of Sri Lanka in its economic upliftment matched my school of thinking. So the first two years was spent on testing the market and we decided that Sri Lanka was not yet ready at that time.
The country was not under the radar schemes of big time investors and even though the hotel was acquired by Calamander Group Inc. in 2011 we wanted to further focus on the growth rate of the business. This is just one reason for us to delay the re-launch for two years.
Being born to a British father and Sri Lankan mother I think of my self as a Commonwealth child therefore all the Calamander operations are carried out in Commonwealth countries such as UK, Singapore and Bangladesh. But with my maternal roots drawing back to Sri Lanka I believe I have a personal responsibility in developing this countries economy in every way possible.
Sri Lanka has the best qualified professionals in the industries of tourism and hospitality and I will be taking few of my expert employees to Bangladesh to assist me in expanding the business there.
Q: Looking at the Calamander Group’s presence in Sri Lanka it runs way back to 1999. What investment areas are you focusing on?A: Our main area of interest always lie on real estate and our group as I mentioned before is the earliest foreign investors to support the Government’s commitment towards Sri Lanka’s economic renaissance. To date we have invested closer to Rs. 2 billion, but we do not have a Calamander Sri Lanka Private Equity Fund as such at the moment.
We have over 250 employees in our establishments ranging from food and beverage brand, travel agency, hotels, retail, real estate – Sal Property and Fund Management under the companies International Brands Ltd., Ceylon Brand Management Ltd., Unawatuna Beach Resorts Ltd. and Sri Lanka-Ceylon Travel Agents Ltd.
Looking at the five clusters the Government is focusing to develop promoting Sri Lanka as a tourist destination seems to be the most important. In the coming years the group will look at increasing the speed of economic growth in Kandy, the east coast, Sigiriya and Polonnaruwa as well.
We are also looking at expanding our food and beverage brand Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to other main cities and at the same time the group will introduced more international brands in F&B to Sri Lanka. However we specialise in rebuilding and remodelling old hotels. We are also looking to delve in to the real estate business more and to uplift the standards of the hotels industry I am considering in investing in hotel schools so that I would also have a foot in education.
Q: Talking about the investment in Unawatuna Beach Resort, what attracted your company to rebuild this hotel? Can you explain the process of rebuilding the place from square one?A: The hotel is over 30 years old and the reason to select this particular hotel was the location. The beach was the safest in the country which has best year around swimming, family friendly environment and the guests are not harassed by beach boys. At the time we purchased the land the hotel was falling apart and didn’t have the basic facilities that would be available at a star class hotel. The group mainly aimed at raising the standards of the hotel and the Unawatuna Beach Resorts Ltd. as a company.
After the place was rebuilt we ensure that all the modern amenities required by a guest are provided: access to Wi-Fi facility anywhere in the hotel, better room services and a kitchen that we can take our guests to without being ashamed. Apart from that we comply with international health and safety standards and have allowed disabled access in areas as well.
However we aim at remaining a four star hotel which provides five star facilities as I believe in affordable luxury and as a beach resort we are promoting outdoor activities including water sports and provide free kayaks, stand-up surf boards, body-boards and sports such as beach volleyball and badminton as well.
UBR owns the country’s largest single al-fresco dining facility that holds up to 250 guests in one sitting that offers international cuisines. The dining area also features action-stations and a pizza oven serving thin crust pizzas. The U-Bar, the hotel’s own bar is relocated to the beachside with an expanded range of beers and cocktails and weekend live music.
For more info on Calamander Unawatuna Beach visit : http://www.unawatunabeachresort.com