Sri Lanka hotels dress up for post-war rush

Sri Lanka's hotel owners are racing to refurbish and add thousands more rooms as foreign holidaymakers pour into the country after the end of nearly four decades of ethnic bloodshed.

Leading hotel groups plan to spend millions of dollars on new decor and facilities for the influx of tourists drawn to the plentiful sunshine, beaches and tropical wildlife on the Indian Ocean island nation.

The ambitious expansion comes amid a post-war revival that has pushed up hotel room rates and given the hospitality industry something to cheer for the first time in years.

For once, after seeing tourists put off by violence and travel warnings from foreign governments, the industry says it is struggling to find places for the visitors, most of whom come from Britain, Germany, France, India and Japan.

"Hotels are overbooked, a 'problem' which our hotels have not experienced for a very long time," said Srilal Miththapala, who heads the Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka.

Counting on this solid demand, many are now investing in new furniture, bars, restaurants, swimming pools and extensions.

Sri Lanka's tourist board expects the total number of hotel rooms to grow from about 15,000 now to 22,000 in the next two years.

In a sign of the changes underway, Sri Lanka's biggest leisure operator John Keells Holdings is partially refurbishing one of its flagship Colombo hotels, while two of its beach-front resorts are set for a complete facelift.

The group's resort in the eastern seaport town of Trincomalee, once a hotbed for Tamil Tiger rebels, will re-open in May as a retro-chic five-star hotel.

"With the war behind us, there is pent-up demand for a bit of luxury targeting well-heeled guests. We're very bullish," said its deputy chairman, Ajit Gunewardene.

The Tamil Tigers, who waged a 37-year separatist war of suicide bombings, assassinations and military offensives, were crushed by government forces last May, finally bringing peace to the Buddhist-majority nation.

John Keells, which owns seven resorts and two city hotels with 1,600 rooms, will spend in excess of 900 million dollars over three years to renovate and build three hotels, Gunewardene said.

Rival operator Aitken Spence Group says it is spending nearly 30 million dollars in the next year to spruce up properties and build three hotels in the island's war-torn north and east.

Shiromal Cooray, a director at the Jetwing Group which manages a chain of 10 hotels, admitted that significant improvement was needed because nearly half of the country's current hotel rooms are below so-called "star class."

Jetwing plans to spend more than seven million dollars this year to improve its properties.

Dileep Mudadeniya, who heads the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, says most hotels have been fully occupied in the past three or four months.

A key foreign exchange earner, the number of holidaymakers in February soared 68 percent to 57,300 over the same month a year earlier, according to tourist board figures.

"Forward bookings are encouraging," said Mudadeniya. "I was told that 20 to 30 hotels are closed for any new reservations till the end of March because they are fully booked."

The industry is hoping to attract 2.5 million visitors by 2016, up from 447,890 in 2009, the final year of hostilities.

It is also hoping to earn two billion dollars annually in tourist revenue by 2016, up from 350 million dollars last year.

The downside for holidaymakers is that the days of bargain hotel rates in Sri Lanka appear to be over.

A year ago, visitors could easily get discounts of 50 percent or more on advertised room rates.

"There are virtually no rooms in the southern resorts. Bookings are heavy," said Lakal Jayasinghe, who manages the Tangerine Beach Hotel, a deluxe beach resort in the south.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Recruitment Genius: HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver / CPC and HIAB Training Provider

    £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A HGV Class 2 Lorry Driver is required t...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
    France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

    Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

    Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
    'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

    Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

    Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
    Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

    Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

    New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

    The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need