Tuesday, 28 October 2014 00:55
Situated 10km to the south of Colombo in a bustling beachfront property stands Berjaya Hotel Colombo, one of the landmark hotels in Mount Lavinia. The hotel has been around since 1982 and was formerly known as Mount Royal Beach Hotel. In 1992 the hotel was bought by Berjaya Corporation Berhad – a renowned business conglomerate in Malaysia owning over 100 companies in the field of Hospitality, Leisure, Aviation, Property Development, etc. and was renamed as Berjaya Mount Royal Beach Hotel. With the growth of the hospitality and tourism sector in Sri Lanka this hotel too underwent refurbishments within the past year with an investment of Rs. 200 million. With the relaunch of the hotel in June 2013, it is today known as Berjaya Hotel Colombo. Assuming duties as General Manager Berjaya Hotel Colombo, Pravir Mishra has been in Sri Lanka since June 2014 and joined the Daily FT for a brief interview.Following are excerpts:By Sarah HannanQ:How long has this hotel been around?A: This hotel has been around for 32 years and at the inception was the only three-star hotel in Mount Lavinia. After the war ended, many hotels have come up but we are one of the pioneer hotels. Berjaya bought this hotel in 1992 and if you look at many hotels in our star category you might notice that they are just building and expanding. They do not have a space for a garden and though they have a swimming pool, they have a very small swimming pool, whereas our hotel has a bigger garden with enough space for children to play and we have a beautiful swimming pool which is better than some of the five-star hotels.
Q:What are the changes that have been made at Berjaya Hotel Colombo since you took over?A: When I took over duties as the General Manager for Colombo, I noticed that our brand Berjaya was not well known in the Sri Lankan market. Most people know the hotel as Mount Royal Beach Hotel but not our brand name Berjaya. To create brand awareness we launched advertising campaigns on print as well as electronic media. I personally met up with corporate clients to create the brand awareness of Berjaya and to get more business. This strategy has worked well and now our occupancy level is very good now and we maintain a 55%-60% occupancy rate throughout the year and consider the period from November to January as the peak months.
Berjaya Hotels and Resorts focus on three main things – People, Planet and Profit. People comprises of internal people and external people who are our staff and our guests. Planet since we are by the beachside and since the environment is very important and we have to take action on global warming and keeping our beach clean, so we are focusing on environment. Few days back we had a cleanup project at the Mount Lavinia station and then our beach front as well. The beach front is cleaned on a daily basis with the assistance of the local authority and we sponsor their meals. We have a Coast Guard just in front of our Rasa Malaysia beachside restaurant to keep an eye on the visitors who wish to enjoy a sea bath. The third factor is profit and it is the objective of any business. We are also looking at making a profit for our shareholders and people who are involved in our company.
Q:Has the hotel undergone any refurbishment recently? Have there been any structural changes in the design of the hotel?
A: Since last year we have spent Rs. 200 million on this property. We have completely renovated the hotel, banquet halls and swimming pool, giving a total new look. This in return has benefitted us and we are getting a lot of business. Actually we have not received any complaints about the rooms or the banquet halls after the renovations. Of course always it can be better as there is no end for betterment, but the guests are satisfied with the services and facilities provided and they get the value for the money spent.
We have maintained the original structure but have added an elevator. However the interior decorations have been changed adding on the modern facilities for the rooms as well as the banquet halls considering the requirements of the business and leisure guests, since we are targeting both sectors.
Q:What are the newest additions to the hotel since the refurbishment?A: Our beachside restaurant SeaSpray has been renamed as Rasa Malaysia. After I resumed duties as GM, we have started serving Indian cuisine at our beachside restaurant and this is the only beachside restaurant serving Indian cuisine in whole of Colombo. We have also added Chinese cuisine on the menu as well as Malaysian cuisine which is a unique selling point. Our business has grown a lot and our beachside restaurant is doing very well. So we have Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Western and of course Sri Lankan food. Whoever who goes there can choose from any of these food varieties. Apart from that we will be starting a night club in the hotel and our target launch date is 1 December.
Q:With the recent refurbishments and additions, what can the guests expect from Berjaya Hotel Colombo?A: Since I started work in Colombo I always interacted with the guests and was open for their feedback and suggestions. What I noticed was that our guests go to Colombo to eat. To capture that clientele who are mainly Indian, Chinese and Sri Lankan, we introduced cuisines from those regions at our restaurant. We have managed to retain them at the hotel for meals; they only go to Colombo for casinos and not for food. With the introduction of a wide variety of foods at the restaurant, our guest satisfaction has gone up, which you can see on Trip Advisor and other social media sites.
Q: How is Berjaya Hotel Colombo planning to contribute towards the growth of the hospitality and tourism sector in Sri Lanka?
A: We are a multi-national company and our head office is in Malaysia. We have appointed a new sales team in our head office in Malaysia which only focuses on Sri Lanka. We also have hotels in London, Seychelles, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea and Malaysia; therefore we have our sales offices in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, Japan and China which promotes Berjaya hotels all over the world.
We have seen a growth in the bookings we have received from all of these countries and will bring more customers from overseas, which will give us revenue, better service charge for our staff through our guests for the care and service provided by the hotel and bring more guest to our country. Most of our hotels are based in the Asian region and lot of monks from Kuala Lumpur are coming here. Our new sales team is doing tremendously well.
Q:You consider your staff as your biggest asset. How have they benefitted as employees of Berjaya Hotel Colombo?A: We consider our staff as our biggest asset and encourage them to multi task. If they want to work in another department by taking the initiative we give them a special allowance. We always promote our in-house staff by recognising their skills and allowing them to grow with the company. We always prefer to see our staff train from the bottom and reach to higher positions in their career. This is the reason we have a high staff retention rate and they know they have a future within the company. The most difficult position to fill in is Stewards, those who clean the plates. They come and they leave, but if they survive one year in that position, we allow them to become trainee cooks.
Q:What are the ongoing promotions? Any new activities that you have planned for the guests?A: We have a Sunday Buffet which costs Rs. 1,900 nett and a lot of guests come for our Sunday Buffet and guests are allowed to use the swimming pool the whole day free of charge. We only take bookings up to 75 guests because we have to cater to our in house guests as well and the buffet is open from 12 noon to 3 p.m. For a group of 20 people, we provide one room for changing free of charge. For larger groups, we do not charge for corkage. In that way this hotel is very unique. We can guarantee that the guests who come to our hotel will enjoy the services, location and the space available.
From November the peak season is starting, so there are promotions at our Rasa Malaysia beachside restaurant. We have a live band playing every Friday and Saturday. At Rasa Malaysia, we started serving Indian cuisine from the second week of October and for a group of over 10 people we give a 10% discount on the bill. We also have a honeymoon package at Rs. 11,500 where we provide the room decoration and the cake.
This is the only hotel in the three-star category that has direct access to the beach and if you look at all the other three star hotels in Colombo, they do not have direct access to the beach. For the guests at Berjaya, they have an option of choosing from Indian, Chinese, Malaysian, Sri Lankan and Western cuisine and you do not have to look for restaurants elsewhere. Our food and beverage rates are very competitive compared to the market rate.
As for the garden and the swimming pool, a lot of guests come here on Sundays and enjoy and we request our guests to come with friends and family to have a nice time. We have three banquet halls and one meeting room which was recently refurbished along with 88 rooms. For corporate clients if the rooms are available we upgrade them to the highest category and the entire hotel has free Wi-Fi access.
With the introduction of the Night Club in December, we look forward to attract more guests. There is only one beach in Colombo which is Mount Lavinia and it is a happening place. Saturday Sunday the beach is packed and there is a lot of activity happening around the area but there is no night club in the area. Through the night club we look forward to capture that market and they would not have to go to Colombo. Enjoy the beach in the evening and in the night time you can enjoy yourself at our Night Club. Mount Lavinia is already a happening place but we want to add more variety to the night life.
Pix courtesy www.berjayahotel.com/colombo