Tag Archives: Geoffrey Bawa

Heritance Kandalama Awarded EarthCheck Silver Certification for Environmental Practices

15 May

The environmental practices of Heritance Kandalama have been recognised by EarthCheck; the world’s leading sustainable travel and tourism certification organization in line with the Green Globe Company Standard for Travel and Tourism.  Heritance Kandalama was first certified by Green Globe in 1999 and was the first hotel in Asia to be Green Globe certified based on the agenda 21 principles for sustainable development endorsed by 182 Heads of State at the United Nations Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992. Heritance Kandalama has now achieved Silver certification under the revised Green Globe Company standards for Travel and Tourism.

The EarthCheck Program is widely regarded as the world’s most scientifically rigorous, and is focused on maximising operational efficiencies to minimise CO2 emissions, while supporting host communities. It looks at key environmental indicators such as energy and water consumption, total waste production as well as community commitment, to determine the level of performance. Only those companies that can demonstrate operational practices that adhere to the highest environmental standards receive the much-coveted Silver Certification.

“We are delighted to be awarded the Earthcheck Silver Certification for Environmental Practices. Winning this award attests to our stance on sustainability and reinforces our commitment towards reducing energy consumption which will help us reduce our carbon footprint”, said Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels.

Prior to achieving certification, Heritance Kandalama successfully benchmarked its operations using the EarthCheck tool. This involved the organisation submitting a year’s worth of operational data, and having it compared to that of other organisations that are similar in kind.

“The ability to provide the world’s finest green hotel experiences is made tangible by the accolades won by Heritance Kandalama. The awards and accreditations won by the hotel are a testament of our commitment to our guests and the environment in which we operate in” said Mr. B H R Sariffo’deen, Assistant Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotels.

The EarthCheck Program uses more than a decade of factual, operational data, submitted by over 1000 companies in 60+ countries. By taking such a holistic view of company practices, Heritance Kandalama was able to identify where they were out-performing others, and where room for improvement remained.

“I am delighted that Heritance Kandalama has achieved Certified Silver status,” says Stewart Moore, CEO of EC3 Global. Heritance Kandalama has recognised a maturing of the science behind climate change and environmental sustainability, and has chosen to apply the highest possible standard to their practices. “Going well beyond mere tick-box action is not an easy task. It requires the commitment of all levels of staff, as well as a readiness to submit to expert scrutiny. Heritance Kandalama has emerged as an example of an organisation committed to environmentally sustainable tourism, and the EarthCheck logo will serve to demonstrate that their claims are both credible and relevant.”

Changing regulatory environments, rapidly evolving markets and complex risk implications require organisations access specialised tools and expertise. Taking a science-based approach, Heritance Kandalama has increased efficiencies, maximised guest experience and minimised their environmental footprint. Heritance Kandalama has turned garbage into a resource by practicing the “7 R” principle introduced by Mr. Ravi de Silva, Environmental Consultant, Aitken Spence Hotels. This has resulted in the hotel producing zero waste while also benefiting monetarily by selling sorted waste for reuse and recycling purposes.

EarthCheck is the next generation of environmental certification and benchmarking. It is the culmination of a journey that began in 1987 and continues to this day. Exclusively owned by EC3 Global, the EarthCheck Program is used by more sustainable travel and tourism companies than any other; helping them navigate the path forwards with certainty and peace of mind, while recognizing that the planet deserves more than half measures.

Heritance Kandalama is positioned regally by the placid waters of the Kandalama tank; it surveys the rich wildlife that visits its precincts. Located amidst verdant jungle, calm waters and rocky mountains, it offers a holiday where one can wake up to bird calls, stunning vistas, profuse foliage and luxury. Heritance Kandalama is flanked by two UNESCO world heritage sites-the 1st century BC Dambulla rock temple and the 5th century AD Sigiriya rock fortress while it also has its share of unrivalled international recognition. The hotel has received many accolades for their environmentally friendly operations which demonstrate their strengthened commitment towards the individual environments in which they operate in and their responsiveness towards the crisis faced with regards to the depletion of natural resources. The Heritance Kandalama team and their stake holders are the heart of the hotels efforts and by gaining their commitment towards ‘greening the chain’; the hotel will continue to make a difference locally and collectively make a difference globally.

Media Release – 15 May 2010

Next Stop Sri Lanka: Checkpoints in Paradise

16 Mar
14  March 2010

EVERYBODY out, the military officer ordered us, as we pulled off the bumpy road linking the Tamil-dominated eastern province to Sri Lanka’s hill country. My driver motioned to the back seat, where a police officer we picked up a few miles back was sitting. His presence lent an air of authority, and we were promptly waved through. But the busload of European shutterbugs in front of us — unloading their suitcases and filing out in a single column — was not so lucky.

Such are the inconveniences of visiting a postwar country like Sri Lanka. I traveled there last October with fresh memories of what had befallen this teardrop-shaped island off India: a brutal decades-long conflict between the Sinhalese majority government and a band of separatist rebels called the Tamil Tigers.

Postwar societies, no matter how peaceful or picturesque on the surface, are inevitably complex places that still bear the scars of war, though some less overtly than others. Sri Lanka is no different. Visitors will discover a tropical island teeming with exotic wildlife, white beaches and stylish boutique hotels. Yet they will also find internment camps, military checkpoints and a government accused by watchdog groups of undermining democratic principles as it tightens its grip on power.

Remnants of the war can be found practically around every corner. As our van sped along, I spotted rows of abandoned huts lining the road, which my Tamil driver said were used by snipers. In Trincomalee, a busy port in the northeast, fishermen with missing appendages hawked the day’s catch. Conversations with locals almost inevitably drift back to war.

The wounds are still fresh, as The New York Times found out after listing Sri Lanka as its top travel destination for 2010 (as the author of the entry, my e-mail in-box was bombarded with angry letters). The anger stemmed from the brutal way in which the Sri Lankan military ended the war last May. By some estimates, about 7,000 civilians, and possibly thousands more, were killed during the final battle. Hundreds of thousands were put in camps. The government remains in the awkward position of defending itself against accusations of war crimes while also trying to open up the country to foreign investors and vacationers.

Because of the war’s tense aftermath, the State Department has issued a travel warning on Sri Lanka (travel.state.gov/travel). But to date, I have heard no reports of Western tourists killed or kidnapped in Sri Lanka. In recent months, tourism has steadily inched upward from past years, thanks to efforts by the government and local entrepreneurs to redevelop the eastern coast and to build an airport down south near Hambantota. The tourism ministry has also begun a “Visit Sri Lanka 2011” public relations blitz to rebrand itself after the war.

Sri Lanka has always held a fascination among wayward foreigners. Long after Marco Polo stumbled onto its palm-fringed shores, the British futurist Arthur C. Clarke made Sri Lanka his adopted home to gaze up at the universe. Some literary historians suspect “Robinson Crusoe” was inspired by the island’s remoteness. Real-life castaways — Aussie filmmakers, German graphic designers — are relocating here to snap up centuries-old homes and convert them into attractive spaces that blur the line between modern art gallery and Moorish guesthouse, fusing colonial décor with Asian motifs.

But it is the country’s tranquil beauty that draws most visitors. “You don’t need to do a great deal to have the good life here,” said Ivan Robinson, a British real estate developer who refurbished a colonial manor in the south. “The rivers are full of fish. Fruit falls off trees.” Water buffalo graze beside Buddhist stupas. Elephants roam freely. And innkeepers warn guests to keep their windows closed to avoid pickpockets — not people, but monkeys swinging from the trees.

Then there are Sri Lanka’s famed beaches, crescent-shaped coves of white sand framed by colorful bungalows and bamboo groves. An unintended consequence of the war is the coastline’s lack of development. You can stroll past beat-up outrigger boats, which look like showpieces from a maritime museum, and past fishermen on wooden stilts. Or hike inland to discover hideaway guesthouses carved from old gem merchants’ homes, with mango gardens and infinity pools tucked into their courtyards.

In Trincomalee, make your way to the Hindu temple atop Swami Rock, perched over one of the world’s deepest harbors (it’s called Lover’s Leap; legend has it a lovelorn Dutch girl once flung herself off the ledge). Or head just north of town to Nilaveli Beach, a deserted stretch of sand that calls to mind the TV show “Lost.”

But it is the southern town of Galle that is the coast’s biggest draw. The city feels more European than South Asian, owing to the fact that its center — a jumble of quaint gem shops, cafes and guesthouses — sits within the weather-beaten walls of a Dutch-built fort.

After dining on crab cakes in the colonial Galle Fort Hotel, stop by the ramparts to watch kids dive Acapulco-style into the Indian Ocean. Cap it off with a cocktail at Dick’s Bar, found within the Sun House, the former digs of a Scottish spice merchant that now caters to artists and architects.

High up in Sri Lanka’s hill country, the feeling is more authentic, less touristy. To get there, hop on the train that rattles past rain forests, tea plantations and elephant orphanages. The final stop is Kandy, famous for its lakeside shrine called the Temple of the Tooth.

Swing by Kandy’s botanical gardens before checking out the Heritance Kandalama Hotel, about 90 minutes north of town. Designed by Geoffrey Bawa, a native son, the hotel sits on the edge of a cliff, camouflaged in a thick coat of jungle foliage. Another showcase of the island’s architectural renaissance is Kandy House, a 400-year-old manor converted into a boutique hotel furnished with antiques and arched verandas.

But it is Kandy’s Buddhist roots that entice most visitors. Head to the Y.M.B.A. (Young Men’s Buddhist Association) around sundown to witness a pooja dance. Dancers twirl about in red and gold sarongs, clink brass rings and bang on drums before staging a fire-eating ritual. Or hop on a tuk-tuk, the motorized rickshaw taxis all over Sri Lanka, to make the drive to Dambulla, an ancient complex of cave temples stuffed with reclining Buddha statues.

Even Colombo, the gritty capital, is getting a makeover, with Bohemian cafes and flamboyant nightclubs now tucked within its high-rise hotels. Aid workers and diplomats converge at the Gallery Café, a chic fusion restaurant that doubles as an art gallery. But the best place to soak up the colonial-meets-tropical vibe of Colombo is from the ocean-facing garden of the stately Galle Face Hotel.

As the well-heeled brunch crowd filed into the hotel, Waruna Jayasinghe, a bushy-haired artist who recently opened a Buddhist meditation center near Kandy, was with a gaggle of European real estate developers, discussing Sri Lanka’s prospects for peace.

“With the war going on, nobody felt safe,” Mr. Jayasinghe said as he rubbed the tiger’s claw that hung around his neck, a talisman he said brings good luck. “But for the first time, things are different. Now, anything is possible.”

As seen on The New York Times on 14 March 2010

Media Release – 16 March 2010

Heritance Kandalama Spa Named Among Asia’s Top 5 Sustainable Spas

23 Feb

Luxury Insider, Asia’s leading luxury online magazine announced that the Six Senses Spa at Heritance Kandalama  is among the top-5 sustainable spas in Asia.

Heritance Kandalama has been celebrated for its green philosophy and is widely recognized as the five-star resort that put eco tourism on the map in Sri Lanka. “We are committed towards sustaining and further developing our environmental programmes implemented and we are delighted to be recognised for our efforts” said Mr.B.H.R Sariffo’deen, Assistant Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotels.

The Six Senses Spa situated on a rock overlooking the world famous Sigiriya Rock Fortress belongs to a chain of twenty-four award wining, world renowned spas. The philosophy of Six Senses is based on balancing a pyramid of the five senses; sight, sound and touch are the base of the pyramid; taste and small form the center; the apex symbolises the unique sensory experience of the Six Senses Spa.

Geoffrey Bawa’s visionary architectural design has ensured that no lights are required anywhere in the hotel during daytime as all areas of the hotel are designed to receive an adequate amount of natural light. As a result of something as simple as the allowance for lighting, the hotel makes a substantial saving in the energy that is consumed. The hotel was built between two rock formations and none of the trees on the location were destroyed. The entire hotel is built on a raised platform allowing water to flow under the hotel. It also allows the free flow of animals under the hotel, creating minimum impact on the eco system. Other state-of-the-art methods are utilized in every aspect of the hotel to ensure efficient use of energy and resources such as water.

The hotel has a comprehensive energy conservation policy with power cut-off switches, energy efficient lighting (CFL bulbs), photo active garden lights and a Gassification plant which uses biomass in the form of Grilicedia wood which is a renewable source compared with the previous boiler which used diese. The hotel has a comprehensive water conservation policy where no surface water is utilized; water is obtained from 150-200 foot deep tube wells and a maze of gutters that collect rainwater.

“Sri Lanka has particularly strict laws to protect the environment and wildlife. We are proud to say that the Heritance Kandalama not only complies fully with these laws, but we also go well beyond them; we take pleasure in our conservation work. We also respect the social and cultural sensitivities of the neighbouring communities, while assisting them with their livelihoods. We purchase local products and services, and involve these communities in our environmental conservation work” said Mr.Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Hotels.

Operating under the Heritance Hotels & Resorts brand, the flagship Heritance Kandalama is the world’s first hotel to obtain the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The Observer of UK named it as one of the “Icons of Modern Hotel Design” and Travel + Leisure calls it one of the leading green hotels of the world. In keeping with the company’s commitment toward the environment, ‘Greening the Chain’ is the objective of Aitken Spence Hotels.

Media Release – 24 February 2010