By Cheranka Mendis
Finco Group’s leisure arm on Tuesday announced the rebranding of what was previously known as ‘Uga Resorts’ to ‘Uga Escapes’ at an expense of Rs. 15 million in tandem with the company’s focus on establishing upmarket luxury hotels for local and international travellers.
Having only launched the brand Uga Resorts last November, the move towards creating a new one came with studies which showed that the two properties currently in operation, along with the third that is to be launched later this year, are not really ‘resorts’ but smaller properties catering to the more experiential discerning travellers.
The new brand identity embodies the company’s value proposition of providing ‘experiences of a lifetime in the most stylish and responsible way’ and demonstrates the expansion of the business into the highly competitive upmarket hospitality industry.
“It also aims to ensure brand consistency in everything that we do in building long-term brand value and loyalty with our guests,” Uga Escapes Managing Director Priyanjith Weerasooria said.
The initial logo of a sun has been replaced with a lotus flower in keeping with the brand identity change. The lotus, he said, represents purity and the cycles of life. “At Uga Escapes, the lotus functions symbolically as an eloquent metaphor for the regeneration of the soul,” he noted.
“With this new branding comes the adoption of an entirely new creative look and feel for all the individual hotels under the umbrella brand of Uga Escapes.”
Announcing an investment commitment of over Rs. 2.5 billion on the properties, Weerasooria also announced the launch of a new property ‘Uga Bay,’ located in Pasikudah.
Sprawled across nine acres, the beachfront property is expected to open for operation by the end of October by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. An investment of Rs. 850 million has gone into the project. Land for the project has been leased out from the Government on a 33-year leasing contract.
The property will comprise of 46 spacious 500 sq ft rooms, a ‘bay suite’ and a ‘beach chalet.’ Designed to give a contemporary tropical feel, fused with a Mediterranean twist, Uga Bay will deliver calibrated luxuries for those seeking relaxation and adventure sports such as snorkelling, jet skiing and diving at famous World War II wrecks for those with a constant adrenaline rush.
“This is an exciting time for Uga Escapes as we make a firm commitment towards investing in our marketing strategy to raise awareness of our hotels and develop a strong brand presence within the upmarket hotel industry in Sri Lanka and internationally,” Weerasooria said.
The new property will come under the luxury boutique tab and will be priced in the range of US$ 250 to over US$ 1,000 depending on the rooms.
Uga Escapes owns the famous Ulagalla Resorts which opened in August 2010 and Jungle Beach which opened in June this year. Ulagalla, the flagship property of the group, is identified as the most luxurious boutique property in the cultural triangle. Now in its third year of operation, the property has broken even and commands room rates over US$ 1,000 for a suite.
The property is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and was recently invited to Pure Life Experiences 2012, an exclusive invitation to the world’s only defining Experiential Travel trade show.
Jungle Beach which was set up at an investment of Rs. 850 million is the first and only investment in the Kuchchaveli Tourism Promotion Zone and Uga Escapes is the only hotel operator to follow the direction set by the Government by expanding the leisure and hospitality sector to parts of Sri Lanka which were previously inaccessible.
The property has been developed using sustainable and low carbon technology as at the Ulagalla Resort and Uga Bay. The property has set its rates between US$ 250-300. The land for Jungle Beach has been taken under a 99-year lease from the Government.
Weerasooria also told the Daily FT on the sidelines of the rebrand announcement that the company has plans to open two more boutique properties on the southern coast between Tangalle and Hikkaduwa and in the hills (Kandy and Nuwara Eliya). Over Rs. 1 billion is expected to be utilised for the properties.
“We are confident that the new property, Uga Bay will be as successful as its predecessors,” Weerasooria said. When questioned on the targeted markets, he revealed that for both properties in the eastern belt i.e. Pasikudah and Kuchchaveli, the market is Russia and Ukraine. For Ulagalla however, the current market is the traditional UK and European market. However the company is looking at attracting tourists from the Far East, including Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.