Archive | July, 2010

Aitken Spence Trains Rural Youth in Hospitality Sector

28 Jul

Investors have shown tremendous interest  in setting up new tourism businesses in the country. Substantial investments have been approved by the government to develop new resorts in the East coast including Trincomalee which is well known to be one of the best beaches in Asia. Most of these resorts are tipped to be up market luxury resorts,  increasing the demand for skilled workers in the tourism industry.

One of the key challenges facing Sri Lanka tourism today is the shortfall of skilled service personnel. Aitken Spence School of Hospitality in Ahungalla commenced operations in 2007, with a view to enhance the employability and skills of Sri Lankan youth for the hospitality industry.. The school was established by Aitken Spence Hotels with the assistance of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Hilfswerk.

A group of young  men from the Eastern province, majority from Trincomalee  was the most recent batch to enter the hospitality industry through the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality . This batch completed their training with practical sessions and hands on experiences at Heritance Kandalama. Some of the trainees explained that the highlight of their practical session were interactions with the other staff and the real customers, the tourists.

Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotels, commented on this initiative saying “The school was initially set up to recover from the Tsunami and assist locals in the Ahungalle region. However, since the ending of the war, our company has taken steps to assist the development in the North and the East as well as other rural areas in the country.  Mr. Hapugoda also stated “What is most important for us in the industry is to transfer skills within a short period of time to fill the gap. Once the students have the basic skills and confidence they  can easily join as stewards or stewardesses, to further improve and learn through on the job training and  subsequently specialise in areas of their choice”.

While the school provides free technical know how to young men and women of employable age, it also aims to groom them by building confidence. Key advantage for the students is that, they are provided with a rare opportunity to work in five star Aitken Spence Hotels in Sri Lanka and thus gain valuable overseas exposure through the Group’s hotels in the Maldives, India and Oman. Most of the trainees are employed by Aitken Spence Hotels at the completion of their training. Some of our students have secured employment abroad while a few others have ventured in to establishing their own hospitality related micro businesses.

The company  was privileged to be associated with USAID with this particular programme in assisting the youth of the Eastern Province. The significance of this batch of trainees was that it provided an opportunity for the youth of the North Eastern province to interact with youth of other parts of the country. By participating in practical sessions conducted in Aitken Spence hotels they were able to socially network and interact with the rest of the community.

Ms. Melani Schultz, Chief of Party  for USAID/CORE said “USAID through its Connecting Regional Economies Project has partnered with four major hotel chains in Sri Lanka, including Aitken Spence. A partnership with Aitken Spence was formalised because of its excellent reputation in the tourism sector and its high calibre hospitality training programme. We are proud to see the success of the Aitken Spence programme with every trainee completing the 3-month courses. We wish continued success to the new batch of trainees from Moneragala and Ampara and to the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality”

Mr. Amal Nanayakkara, General Manager, Training of Aitken Spence Hotels was very  happy to announce that a new batch of twenty nine students, mostly from Moneragala and Ampara districts also with the assistance from the USAID/CORE project, entered the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality on 15th of July 2010. Mr. Nanayakkara said “The School gives opportunities to unemployed school leavers, aged between eighteen and twenty four, with GCE Ordinary Level qualifications”,

The school is committed to training youth on the basic concepts of hospitality on short-term courses. These short term courses of three months have paved the way for many  talented young men and women to gain entry in to the hospitality sector.

Media Release – 28 July 2010

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Sri Lanka Spence to put US$78mn in hotels

12 Jul

July 12, 2010 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s Aitken Spence group is planning to put 78 million US dollars in to the leisure sector after a war ended in Sri Lanka with new hotels in the south western coast being started first, an official said.

“We envisage a post-war investment around 9.0 billion rupees (78 million US dollars) given the opportunities that we have,” Aitken Spence director Gehan Perera told a forum organized by Acuity, an investment bank.

A 30-year war which had hamstrung tourism ended in May 2009, and arrivals are up over 40 percent this year.

Aiken Spence owns or operates 27 hotels with 2,020 rooms in Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Oman.

The firm will refurbish and expand a 94-room hotel in Kalutara, formerly known as Golden Sun which it only managed at first but has since taken full control after a Singapore based shareholder sold out.

A hotel in Beruwala is being done up and will be relaunched as Heritance Mahagedera in early 2011 positioned as a 64-room specialized Ayurveda (a traditional South Asian healthcare system) resort.

Its premium hotels, branded Heritance, includes a 5-star resort next to a lake in Kandalama in central Sri Lanka, a former tea factory in the central hills and a beach resort in Ahungalle in the south western coast.

Perera said a 10 acre land next to Heritance Ahungalle was slated for development. Earlier reports have said the group was planning a venture there with the Six Senses leisure group.
“We have another seven acres next to Heritance Mahagedera in Beruwala. This is also under discussion,” Perera said.

“In Nilaweli (in north eastern Sri Lanka) we have a little over 100 acres. It is also on the drawing board. We are looking at a fairly integrated development there.”

Perera said the group was looking at Yala in the deep south of the country, where a popular national park is located and was also scouting for more opportunities in the north. In addition to Nilaweli it was also looking at more projects in eastern Sri Lanka.

The government recently gave land to developers in Pasikuda and another tourism zone in Kuchchaveli has also been opened.

As seen on Lanka Business Online on 12 July 2010. Click – http://www.lankabusinessonline.com/fullstory.php?nid=169865000

Media Release – 22 July 2010

TNT appointed Official Courier for 3rd Asian Junior Squash Championships

10 Jul

TNT, one of the world’s Largest Air Express Companies and the market leader in Europe was appointed Official Courier for the 3rd Asian Junior Individual Squash Championships and the 1st Asian Masters Squash Championships, which commenced on the 6th of July 2010 in Sri Lanka. This is a landmark event for the Sri Lanka Squash Federation, as the tournament comprises of over 170 players from more than 11 countries from the Asian continent.

This is not the first time TNT is involved in a major sporting event. In 2006, they were the Official Courier to the National Squash team which participated in the South Asian Games which faced teams from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.

In addition, TNT was the Official Courier for the multi-nation Rugby Asiad held in Colombo in 2007. This was a great opportunity for TNT to showcase their expertise as they were contracted by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union to carry biological samples to Malaysia for dope-testing.

TNT’s desire to be part of national and international sports events stems from the belief that sports instills characteristics in people which TNT feels mirrors their own values – teamwork, agility, determination and the ability to meet any challenge and triumph. TNT is represented in Sri Lanka by Ace International Express (Pvt) Ltd, a member of Aitken Spence group of companies.

Auxiliary facts about TNT

  • TNT commenced operations in Sri Lanka in 1980.
  • Globally, TNT began in 1946 when it was founded by Ken Thomas in Australia. TNT stands for “Thomas Nationwide Transport”
  • TNT has a global network of 2,409 hubs, depots and express centres spanning 200 countries across the world.
  • TNT has a global fleet of 48 aircrafts, 30,061 ground vehicles and 159,663 employees’ worldwide.
  • TNT currently tops the Dow Jones Sustainability Index with an overall score of 92%
  • TNT has a global partnership with the UN World Food Programme which aims to end world hunger and malnutrition. The name of this partnership is “Moving the World”.
  • In the aftermath of the Tsunami in 2004, TNT provided valuable assistance in the disaster relief efforts to the extent of bringing down a TNT 747 with aid for distribution.

Media Release-10 July 2010

Sustainability is the key to tourism development in Sri Lanka

9 Jul

Sustainability is a big buzz word globally, and it is increasingly shaping the way how businesses think and operate. In the travel and tourism sector, which is the largest industry worldwide, sustainability has become a key driver helping market airlines, destinations, hotels & tours.

For us in Sri Lanka, the tourism industry is bringing a whole new world of opportunities for economic development, especially in the rural areas.  Integrated nature of the tourism industry is such that the economic benefits always spread across the entire country, almost all the people. Tourism also helps us to look after our natural & cultural resources.

Aitken Spence Hotels Group has come a very long way in making their hotels sustainable. According to Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director of the Aitken Spence Hotels Management (Pvt) Ltd. which operates Sri Lanka’s largest hotel portfolio, the Group’s sustainability practices have been adopted long before sustainability became fashionable in the international tourism industry. Mr. Hapugoda said “Aitken Spence  has  invested in lot of time and financial resources  over the decades to make our hotels world class case study examples of sustainability. We have found out that our business associates and our guests are keen to learn about the sustainability practices of the hotels than ever before. The unique sustainability features of our hotels are clearly giving us a marketing advantage.  Our expertise gained in sustainability in Sri Lanka is spreading across to our hotels in the Maldives, India & Oman. ”

Sustainable tourism is on the rise in Sri Lanka, with consumer demand growing, travel industry suppliers are developing new green programmes, and the government is encouraging sustainable practices in tourism. But what does “sustainable tourism” really mean? How can it be measured and credibly demonstrated, in order to build consumer confidence, promote efficiency, and fight false claims? Mr Hapugoda emphasizing the importance of credibility & sustainability reporting said, “There are internationally accepted standard guidelines & frameworks for sustainability implementation, evaluation, data collection and reporting.  If Sri Lankan hotels want external parties to recognize their efforts and build credibility it is very important to adopt these guidelines to share information on what they have achieved and disclose information on an universally accepted format”.

The Sustainability reporting framework developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) complying with  the G3 guidelines and indicator protocols for economic, environment, human rights, labour, product responsibility and societal performance. The report outlines the company’s progress in embedding the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact and Climate Change mitigation actions.

Media Release – 09 July 2010

Brighter futures, Sustainability highlights of the Aitken Spence Hotels Annual Report

9 Jul

Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC has doubled the sustainability content of this year’s Annual Report. In addition to reporting impressive financial achievements, the company has highlighted tremendous positive impacts made on environmental and social aspects. In reaching out to the local communities, the Group has directly and indirectly associated with changing their lives for a brighter future. Group views sustainability as a strategic avenue for growth in the long-term as opposed to ad-hoc philanthropy and provides tremendous opportunities and encouragement to local communities in villages that the hotels are located in.

Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings Mr. J M S Brito explains that “Corporate Sustainability has long been a tradition at Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings. It has been a way to connect with the societies in which we operate, a way to positively contribute to the global fight against global warming and most importantly, a way to enrich the lives of local communities our customers and employees”.

There are many heart warming stories of how local villagers have benefitted from the Aitken Spence hotels for livelihood and how they have improved their living conditions, some climbing very high in the corporate ladder. Thirty seven old  Ranjith Kumarasinghe from Palukatula village in Kandalama joined the Heritance Kandalama  Hotel as a trainee waiter and today he is  the Human Resources Assistant Manager. He still works on his field during time off from work. A former  labourer,  S. M. Meiyappan was promoted and appointed  as the  Health Club Assistant at the Heritance Tea Factory. Meiyappan’s local knowledge on birds in the area has helped him to become the Heritance Tea Factory’s trekker as well.  He now takes tourists on nature trails. Another former labourer hailing from Hethersett village, J. Sivasamy is now a supervisor with eight staff members working under him at the Hethersett Spring Water Bottling Unit at the Heritance Tea Factory.  Sekeralage Siripala, a farmer from Upper Areula village in Kandalama  has been playing flute at Heritance Kandalama since its inception for fifteen years, daily payments received from the hotel supplements his farming income .

The stories of Ranjith , Meiyappan, Sivasamy & Siripala and their families are  only a few amongst hundreds  of many others who are saying thank you to the Aitken Spence Hotels for changing their lives for brighter futures.

Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director Aitken Spence Hotels Management (Pvt) LTD.  says “  Our company  has for decades infused growth into the local economy through employment generation. It is extremely difficult to isolate our key achievements in sustainability, which covers a wide array of economic gains to environmental protection measures including mitigating Climate Change. However, we feel that the most incredible achievements are always people related; changing lives by spreading economic benefits to those who need it most brings about the best in our company”

Special efforts have been made by the company towards achieving completeness of the Annual Report by adopting universally applicable & accepted disclosure of information according to international reporting standards. The  Sustainability Report has been produced based on the reporting framework developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) complying with  the G3 guidelines and indicator protocols for economic, environment, human rights, labour, product responsibility and societal performance. The report outlines the company’s progress in embedding the ten principles of the United Nations Global Compact and Climate Change mitigation actions.

The best practices followed by the Group for the conservation and protection of the environment have been recognized as global case studies on sustainable tourism. In addition to being the largest hotel group in Sri Lanka, the company is a rapidly growing regional player with a large portfolio of hotels under the brands of  ‘Aitken Spence Hotels’ & ‘Resorts and Heritance Hotels & Resorts’ in India, Maldives and Oman.

Media Release – 09 July 2010