Shangri-La breaks ground on Sri Lankan soil

Saturday, 25 February 2012 01:37 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts yesterday broke ground for its first ever hotel project in Sri Lanka, the US$ 550 million Shangri-La Colombo, on a land overlooking the Galle Face Green promenade. This was followed by the ground breaking ceremony for their US$ 150 million Hambantota Resort and Spa in the Sirakala Estate in Hambantota today.

The Group, which announced its purchase of 10 acres of Government land in Colombo last January, expects the hotel to be ready for occupation by end 2015, Shangri-La Asia Executive Director Madhu Ramachandra Rao said.

Rao told the Weekend FT that with the country’s economic potential and development targets, projects such as their own would benefit both the country and the company. An early bird in investing in the local hospitality market, he noted that the country’s potential is enormous and by establishing themselves before other key international chains come in, the benefits for growth is greater.

“We believed that the country is heavily reliant on tourism, which is a very important industry for the economy. We are one of the few groups that not only manage hotels but also invest its own money.”

He noted that the environment for investment is very conducive at the moment. “The Government was very encouraging in the efforts in this area. About 15 months ago they invited dialog in respect to the project. Since then they have been very quick in terms of decision making and facilitating the entire process,” Rao noted. “It has been a pleasure doing business with them.”

Shangri-La Hotel Colombo will be built according to sustainability guidelines with 661 rooms offering some of the largest accommodation in town at 45 square metres to 55 square metres (484 square feet to 592 square feet). This also includes 43 suites ranging in size from 90 square metres to 225 square metres (968 square feet to 2,421 square feet).A wide range of restaurant concepts will also be a key feature in the integrated hotel project with a sushi bar, steakhouse, seafood market, Indian restaurant, Islamic restaurant as well as a sky lounge planned for the top floor. There will be an all-day-dining venue offering various food concepts throughout the day including Straits Spice Market, a Szechuan and a Macanese restaurant. A take-out deli, Irish pub, tea lounge and wine/cigar room will round out the culinary offer.

The premises will also host the largest meeting facilities in the city with 4,780 square metres (50,598 square feet) of function space allocated over three floors to host meetings, receptions and private functions.

A health club, spa with eight treatment rooms, an outdoor junior Olympic-size lap pool at 25 by 12 metres and two outdoor tennis courts will complete the recreational facilities.

“We are excited about our development plans for Sri Lanka. The country is blessed with natural beauty and genuinely warm and friendly people. The multiplier effect of tourism to the economy is important and the government has understood this to perfection. This makes it much more interesting for us to work here,” Rao said.

With Shangri-La now keen on extending their global foot print hoping to move from the present 30,000 room inventory to 50,000 within the next four to five years increasing the number of hotels to 124 from the 72 as at now, the hotels to be constructed in Sri Lanka fits strategically into the group’s ongoing expansion plans to link the Indian subcontinent and the South East Asia developments.

“The Sri Lankan properties will be fully integrated into the local community from the very beginning offering employment opportunities and infrastructural support.  In addition both properties will adopt ‘Embrace,’ Shangri-La’s Care for People Project, to work with local children’s organisations on health or education programs over a long-term period in areas of need such as school materials, infrastructure improvement, hygiene and nutrition. The hotel is in the process of identifying eligible schools within Colombo,” Rao said.

Both properties are committed to employing the majority of the workforce locally and they will commence a ‘Hospitality Traineeship Program.’ Young adults participating in the 15 to 18-month program will start with basic skill courses in front office, food and beverage service, kitchen, landscaping and gardens. Successful candidates will then be placed in selected Shangri-La hotels globally until the properties in Sri Lanka are ready for pre-opening work.