Archive | December, 2010

Reliably Consolidated

29 Dec


Not unlike its counterparts, under the logistics umbrella, Aitken Spence Containers, began as a division of Aitken Spence Shipping and was based in Vauxhall Street. Spearheaded at the time by the inimitable Mr. Suriyakumar, who personally visited the port to work on the containers until the historic night in 1979 the Ports Authority made a sudden decision to move all containers out of the area, for want of space. Given just two or three days to make the move, the outfit cleared and re-located to a company-owned land in Mattakuliya, from whence it continued to function as a division of Aitken Spence Shipping. In 1981, it was incorporated as Ace Containers.

In 1989, security restrictions in the Mattakuliya area forced another move. This time, to the eventual 20 acre land in Mabole. This shift proved to be an unexpected gold nugget, for in expanding the initial 12 acres, Ace Containers found a spring board for diversification. The experience in filling and developing the land led to the purchase of the adjacent seventy perches, which were then re-sold for housing development.

The company, which processes a container every two minutes, was the first container depot in Sri Lanka has been the largest transport operator for the last 5 years, with at least 100 trucks on the road at a given moment. It currently has the biggest bulk liquid transportation service in the country. In addition, they have pioneered services such as multi-country consolidation, third party logistics and transportation and installation of over-dimensional cargo.

Competitors, including the likes of John Keells and Hayleys, have come and gone. Yet, Aitken Spence Containers has endured. The company, which began as a container depot operation and later grew into a diversified company, credits its success to several factors which includes the ability to diversify at the right time. The fact that when the company started, capital investment was much less and that they now have the resources to service customers with little to no down-time, is a result of the dedication and teamwork of the staff.

Sources from within, give credit to all the dedicated staff, for they all play an important role. Employees are empowered and encouraged to discuss issues openly, via regular meetings and unit outings. An open-door environment is cultivated: fostering the feeling that work is less like an office and more like a second home. Indeed, the building exudes an air of confidence on entrance. For, far from the confused bustling about seen in other companies of this nature, staff are seen working quietly. Conversations observed are not carried out in hushed, hurried tones but, in poised, secure voices. This reflects in the company’s success, for it has grown over 100% in the last five years and is one of the most asset-rich companies in the group.

It is the teamwork seen here that convinces the observer, that the company’s plans for eventual regional expansion will meet with nothing less than resounding success.

Ace Magazine – Issue 7 – Vol 1

 

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Heritance Tea Factory Greening All The Way This Season

23 Dec

A visitor to the Heritance Tea Factory this season will be able to enjoy a unique set of environmentally friendly Xmas trees made out of recycled material.  These Xmas trees that adorn the public areas of Heritance Tea Factory hotel have been made with waste and used material supporting the 7R environment policy internally developed and widely used by the Aitken Spence Hotels. The twigs of tea bushes that are pruned during the year had been dried and saved to create the tress in the reception area greeting the guests.  Each Tree has its own story to tell with Heritance Tea Factory staff being given an opportunity to display their artistic talents making and decorating the trees.  Hethersett Cigar Bar has the attraction of a tree made with empty wine and beer bottles and the main   Kenmare Restaurant a beautiful tree   made with wax of leftover candles that were burnt during the year.

Heritance Tea   Factory in lush green tea estate 6,850 feet above sea level maintains the authentic atmosphere of living in a tea factory. The hotel began as a factory built in the days of the British Raj and has now been converted while preserving much of the original style and machinery; reminiscent of the past yet perfectly blending in the innovations of the present. The view from the rooms at the front of the hotel is a wonderful panorama of tea; at its sides, a peaceful pastoral scene of hamlets, hills and forest and more tea greets you.

Tourists in an effort to gain an insight into the tea plucking culture often pick their own tea leaves when staying at the Heritance Tea Factory. The fresh Tea leaves that the tourists pick go through the Organic Mini Tea Factory are then presented to guests before they check out of the hotel.

The Heritance Tea Factory is the first hotel in Sri Lanka to introduce bio mass renewable energy to the hospitality industry in 2007.  The bio mass plant helps the hotel to reduce the carbon footprint as it saves a substantial amount of carbon emissions. Heritance Tea Factory has been recognized by Britain’s leading newspapers ‘Sunday Times’ as one of the 100 best places to stay in the world and ‘The Independent’ selected The Tea Factory as one of the 5 best factory hotels in the world. The Heritance Tea Factory mission is to enable guests to experience a unique interaction with nature and the tea culture, while leaving a minimum impact on the environment.

Team Heritance Strikes Gold at the Culinary World Cup 2010

22 Dec

The 11th Salon International de la Gastronomie (International Gastronomy Show) – EXPOGAST 2010 Culinary World Cup, organised by the Société des Foires Internationales de Luxembourg ‘Luxexpo’ in collaboration with the Vatel Club Luxembourg and the Amitié Gastronomique François Vatel took place from November 20th to the 24th at the Centre d’Expositions et de Conférences des Foires Internationales – Luxexpo, in Luxembourg.

The Heritance Hotels and Resorts eight-member team was the only team to participate from Sri Lanka and walked away triumphant  with three Gold Medals, four Silver Medals, one Bronze Medal and one Special Award.  The award winning culinary team was led by Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe – Groups Development Chef, Aitken Spence Hotels and Heritance Hotels who participated at the event as the Team Coach and Team Manager. The participating team comprised of: Chef Ramish Hassim – Corporate Chef of Heritance Hotels and Resorts,   Sous Chef Gamini Karunathilika-  Sous Chef, Heritance Hotels & Resorts , Chef Lalith Gunasekara – Consultant Chef, Heritance Hotels & Resort, Chef Pradeep Asanka Fonseka – Pastry Chef, Heritance Hotels & Resorts, Anil Gunawardena – Senior Kitchen Artist, Heritance Hotels & Resorts, Augustus Lowe – Specialist in Garde Manger preparations and Chef Manjula Dedduwa- Senior Chef De Party at Heritance Hotels & Resorts.

For the team event, The Heritance Hotels & Resorts Culinary Team comprised of Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe – Team Manager and Team Coach, Chef Gamini Karunathilaka and Chef Augustus Lowe. The jubilant team bagged three Gold Medals for the team event having competed against fifty seven countries in six sub-categories – Plated Desserts, Petit Fours, Artistic Pastry Show Piece, Five Course Set menu / Three Course Vegetarian, Festive Buffet Platter and Tapas. In the Individual event under the Five Course Set Menu category Chef Lalith Gunasekera, Chef Ramish Hassim and Chef Manjula Dedduwa all won individual Silver Medals while Chef Anil Gunewardena won an individual Silver Medal in the Artistic Pastry Show Piece category.  Chef Pradeep Asanka Fonseka of Heritance Hotels and Resorts was awarded a bronze medal.  Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe was also awarded the prestigious Over-All Commitment Award presented by the Jury President.

This new award adds to the tremendous success Chef Dimuthu has had in the International Culinary arena. By securing 9 gold medals in the “Culinary World Cup” and “Culinary Olympics” in 2004 and 2006 he created history as the 1st individual to win 9 gold medals at a World Cup competition.

“We are proud to win despite facing such strong competition. I believe it’s the synergy of our team that gave us our edge. As a team we all have different strengths which we have capitalized on and the results have been overwhelming”, said Chef Dimuthu Kumarasinghe, Team Manager and Team Coach, Heritance Hotels and Resorts Culinary Team.

The Culinary World Cup has been held since 1978 and is one of the five major international culinary competitions sanctioned by WACS (World Association of Chefs Societies).  “Having our team not only participate but be awarded with six medals at such a prestigious culinary event fills me with great joy and pride”, said Mr. Gemunu Goonawardena, Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotels and President of the Culinary Team.

“The Heritance Hotels & Resorts Culinary Teams accomplishments at the Culinary World Cup not only brings pride to Aitken Spence Hotels, but also   to Sri Lanka.  The team has been working tirelessly to achieve their goals and Aitken Spence Hotels have been encouraging them and giving them the opportunity to develop their talents”, said Mr.Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels.

Aitken Spence Hotels and Heritance Hotels, located in strategic locations in the country, cater to a diverse market segment and are famed for its exquisite food and culinary art. Over a period of time the reputation gained in this specialisation has helped to position the chain of hotels as among the best in the region.

Awards – Aitken Spence Hotels – 22 December 2010

Eleven year old Sandeepani steals the show at Aitken Spence Hotels school art competition

7 Dec

On the 26th of November 2010, Aitken Spence Hotels conducted a grand finale to award prizes and certificates to the overall winners of the Aitken Spence Hotels art competition.

The prize giving was held as the final event of the art competition commenced by Aitken Spence Hotels to commemorate “World Tourism Day”, which was held on the 27th of September 2010. The participants of the art competition were from the schools situated within close proximity to the Aitken Spence Hotels. The winners of the competition along with their parents and teachers were in attendance at the ceremony held at the Aitken Spence Head Office.

 

The objective of the competition was to raise awareness in regards to the close relationship that tourism shares with biodiversity and conservation. The Art Competition which was held in several stages not only coincided with the “World Tourism Day” but also with “Universal Children’s Day’ which was on the 20th of November 2010. Through this initiative one hopes that the moral guidelines for the responsible promotion of tourism will bond with the youngsters as they set foot on the path to taking our country forward.

 

The art competition was organized for the school children in two age categories, above 12 and below 12 years of age. All of the schools located near the Aitken Spence Hotels were heavily involved as participation was encouraged by General Managers and the staff of Heritance Kandalama, Heritance Tea Factory, Heritance Ahungalla, Earl’s Regency, Bandarawela Hotel,   Hotel Hill Top  and  Ramada Resort. The hotels conducted local competitions, with over 700 youngsters participating. Bandarawela Hotel submitted the largest number of entries.

The honour of judging the competition was bestowed upon Mrs. Sybil Wettasinghe who in her own right is a renowned artist and has illustrated several books for children. Mrs. Wettasinghe applauded the creativity of the paintings on display and the exceptional talents of the youngsters as well as their ability to connect with the theme of tourism.

 

Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotels, stated “It was a very pleasant experience to meet the little children who emerged as the overall winners of the art competition and it is heartening to see their impressions of tourism’s positive contribution to bio diversity. The tourism industry can play a major role in raising awareness and promoting positive behaviour by tourists and the locals towards biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity is a key asset for tourism and most developing countries and in the case of Sri Lanka it plays a vital role”.

The winning paintings and their respective school children were awarded certificates and cash prizes. First place was awarded to eleven year old A.G. Sandeepani Tathsarani, year 6 student of Kaluthara Balika National School and the second and third places were awarded to H.M.D. Himali Jayaratne, year 7 student  from Mahawatte Maha Vidyalaya, Kundasale and M. Himasha Sandeepani Mendis, year 10 student from Tissa Central College, Mahawaskaduwa. The children received exciting cash prizes all in the aid of their future development. Twelve year old Sandeepani  who won the first place from Kaluthara  said that  she would be opening a savings account with her prize money of rupees 25,000.

 

In addition to recognizing the individual accomplishments with prizes and certificates to overall winners, at each Aitken Spence Hotel, six finalists were selected with awarding of certificates and prizes and the respective schools of the winners were also awarded with funds towards the supply of school equipment.

 

It is through the combination of sustainability and enhancement of tourism that Sri Lanka will move forward. It is hoped that the memories of this day will be imprinted in our youngsters mind, and they too will embrace the idea of biodiversity, and be apart of the evolution of our country as it moves into fifth gear in promoting tourism. Aitken Spence Hotels  is a rapidly growing regional player with a portfolio of hotels under the brands of ‘Heritance Hotels & Resorts’, ‘Aitken Spence Hotels & Resorts’  and ‘Adaaran Resorts’ in Sri Lanka , India, Maldives and Oman.

Media Release – 07 December 2010

TNT sponsors National Chamber of Exporters AGM

7 Dec

TNT, one of the world’s largest Air Express Delivery companies and the market leader in Europe sponsored the recent Annual General Meeting of the National Chamber of Exporters of Sri Lanka which was held recently at the Taj Samudra hotel. The National Chamber of Exporters consists of a large number of companies from numerous industries and services related to exports in the country.

TNT provides businesses and consumers worldwide with an extensive range of services for their express delivery needs, be it export or import. Headquartered in the Netherlands, TNT offers efficient network infrastructures in Europe and Asia and is expanding operations worldwide to maximise its network performance. TNT serves more than 200 countries, employs over 150,000 people and operates over 40 aircraft and 26,000 ground vehicles

TNT recognises its social responsibility and has formed partnerships with the United Nations World Food Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme to fight hunger and pollution in the world. TNT also provided vital logistical support worldwide during the disastrous tsunami of 2004.

In Sri Lanka, TNT is represented by Ace International Express, a member of the Aitken Spence group of companies, and has been so for the past 3 decades. TNT has 14 branches islandwide including one in Jaffna, the first Express Delivery company to do so.

Media Release – 07 December 2010

Ships Ahoy!

6 Dec

Looking back through the annals of time, Aitken Spence Shipping, having been in existence since 1868 from whence the Group records its establishment, features prominently in Sri Lanka’s seafaring and logistical past. From its inauspicious initiation, headquartered within the Galle Fort in the “Clan House,” Clark Spence, as it was then known, was to become the foundation stone of today’s multi-national Aitken Spence PLC.

In the fairytale of shipping, the company which began as a trading company, plying plumbago and spice and importing coal for the power plants, acquired its first agency, the Scottish-owned Clan Line and history, as they say, was truly made. In 1873, Clark Spence became the local agent for Lloyd’s of London.
Not long after, P.G. Spence made the epic decision to move his headquarters to Colombo and formed a new partnership with Thomas Aitken. The company, which was to become Aitken Spence PLC, was born in 1876. In time it became the Colombo representative for Lloyd’s of London.
At a time when shipping was in its infancy in Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence Shipping, along with E. Coates, the only other shipping agency of the era, practically ran the operations at the harbour, supplying labour and general administration for its smooth running. It was during this time that the company first started targeting casual callers, building up a reputation for excellent service and quick attention, gaining it many more agencies. To date, Aitken Spence Shipping’s reputation ensures that it is the most sought-after agency for casual callers, as they require speedy assistance for varied tasks, ranging from radio repair to appropriate handling of the recently deceased.
However, it is noteworthy that Aitken Spence Shipping’s continuation throughout history and into the future, was not only based on a reputation for high standards of ethics and services that the company has become synonymous with but, also for the culture of sustainability that can be traced back to its very roots. Journals of internal memos, dating back to the early 1900’s show a concern for the environment and in-built mechanisms for re-using and re-cycling. For example, instructions to employees to utilise the back of old envelopes for internal notes.
Speaking with Mr. Nimal Perera, Joint Managing Director of Aitken Spence Shipping and Mr. A. Bews Rodrigo, a former Manager at the Galle office of Aitken Spence Shipping, it becomes apparent that the tale of families and histories, intertwined, did not end with the formation of Aitken Spence.

As Mr. Perera and Mr. Rodrigo reminisce of days, berths and shipping lines gone by, it becomes plain to the bystander that whilst Aitken Spence Shipping was tangibly built on shipping lines and a reputation for excellent service, the true foundations were in fact the bonds of camaraderie between the employees, of storms weathered both on land and sea, a feeling of history being made, that built an inauspicious trading company into an international corporation. These would-be random thoughts are re-iterated by the experiences of both Mr. Perera and Mr. Rodrigo. Mr. Rodrigo, who retired from the company in 1999, when the Galle office was permanently closed, is a 3rd generation Rodrigo to have worked at Aitken Spence Shipping and his 38 years of service to the company, combined with those of his father and grandfather before him, add up to a total 75 years of service from one family! The former, a Chemistry major, who joined the company on graduation and enjoyed himself so much, that he stayed on and the latter, having joined on leaving school quite, simply states, “If I had the chance again, I would take the same job.”

Ace Magazine – Volume II – Issue 7

Aitken Spence Conducts the World’s First Program on Marketing HR

3 Dec

Probably for the first time in the world Aitken Spence PLC’s human resources division conducted a programme in marketing of HR practices attended by human resource practitioners from some of the leading corporate entities in the country as well as from its subsidiary companies.

The programme educated participants on how marketing principles and concepts can be employed to market HR related activities and to illustrate how the concept of internal marketing can be applied to convince decision makers. The primary resource person for the programme was Mr. Prasanna Perera.

“The importance and scope of HR in organisations has grown rapidly over the last few decades, adding value to businesses in unprecedented ways. Addressing a longstanding need in human resources management, we were able to conceptualize and introduce what probably is the world’s first training programme on marketing HR. This is a key milestone not only for HR professionals but also for marketers.” said Mr. Rohan Pandithakorralage, Director/Chief Human Resources Officer of Aitken Spence Group.

The full-day programme held at Aitken Spence’s dedicated training facility at its headquarters in Colombo included basic marketing principles, mix and concepts; employer, employee and talent branding concepts; the use of selling techniques with relations to HR activities and the application of the marketing mix to the HR function.

Aitken Spence PLC was awarded Gold at the HRM Awards 2010, organised by the Association of Human Resources Professionals in association with Hewitt Associates. It is Sri Lanka’s apex HR awards scheme which recognises best practices in human resources is held every other year.

Media Release – 03 December 2010

Tourism Boom

3 Dec

Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings, with a portfolio of 27 resorts and hotels, spanning Sri Lanka, the Maldives, India and Oman and translating into a huge 2,300 room capacity, is currently Sri Lanka’s largest resort operator. The company’s 600 rooms, spread across 7 resorts also make it the largest international operator in the Maldives.


Already boasting of exotic properties such as Barefoot at Havelock, located on the “ best beach in Asia” as rated by the Time magazine, Heritance Kandalama Sri Lanka’s most awarded hotel and “an icon of modern hotel design” as rated by the Observer UK, Desert Nights Camp, Oman rated as “one of the top ten desert retreats in the world” by The National and the unique Heritance Tea Factory rated by The Independent UK as one of the ‘top five factory hotels’ in the world and “one of the best 100 places to stay in the world” by the Sunday Times UK, the chain is poised to further astound the tourism sector, both at home and abroad. Aitken Spence is unrivalled in product diversity; from the quaint colonial house-turned hotel in Bandarawela to the upscale Heritance Ahungalla, the group has something for everyone.
On the island, new plans include expansion in all of the cardinal directions, as well as further developments in India and possibly the Middle East. Whilst majority of the new properties will target the high end, Aitken Spence plans to broaden its portfolio, keeping the variety for which it has become renowned and cater to additional niche segments such as wellness and business travel. In addition to a new resort planned for the company’s 100-acre plot of land on the soft white sands of Trincomalee, plans for a high-end resort to be built in Ahungalla are also under way. The latter, will include an island on the Madhu river and be run under the Six Senses banner. In keeping with its reputation for diversity, Aitken Spence also aims to construct city hotels in Colombo and Jaffna. A sustainable tourism model, which Aitken Spence pioneered in Sri Lanka will be the key consideration in growth.
When questioned on how future plans for new target markets would affect the current portfolio and perception of Aitken Spence properties, Mr. Hapugoda quickly says, “We have always been confident of Sri Lanka and continued to spend on our properties during the low years; as such we are one company that is ready to take the upturn. Having said that, as tourism is due to boom, we have some of the best and most unique resorts and we can boldly target the high end, whilst continuing to have a presence in the volume market.” In post-war Sri Lanka, when the future of tourism is looking brighter than ever, Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotel Managements, acknowledges that the true strength behind the award-winning Group is the team who continuously strives towards excellence in service. He encourages them to persist in their endeavours as he says, “There is no favouritism, everyone is rewarded on merit and in the company’s expansion plans, current staff will always be given preference for growth opportunities within the group, whether in Sri Lanka or abroad.”