Tag Archives: Sri Lanka Tourism

Spanish Global Family Business Expert Impressed by Sri Lanka

5 Jan

Zugaza family in the cultural triangle

Mr. Jose Manuel Zugaza and family in Polonnaruwa

One of the most globally well-known family business consultants, Jose Manuel Zugaza celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife and three children in Sri Lanka recently. Mr. Zugaza, a former Executive President of Banco de Madrid of Spain and now the Managing Partner of UNILCO, a leading consultancy for family companies. The Zugaza family experienced the Cultural Triangle in a tour organized by Aitken Spence Travels through their partner, a high-end tour operator in Spain. Aitken Spence Travels is the largest inbound tourist operator in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Zugaza and his wife Carlota Escribano, who is a Director of Institutional Relations at the Development Bank of Latin America described their visits to the UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Sigiriya Rock Fortress and the Dambulla Cave Temple as “epic”. They also took part in a biking tour through the ruins of Polonnaruwa, another UNESCO World Heritage site.

“We will never forget encountering a herd of elephants on the main road, from Polonnaruwa on our way to a Safari tour in Minneriya”, said Ms. Escribano.

Jose Manual Zugaza is also the President of the Asociación Española de Consejeros de Empresas Familiares, Member of Family Business Network (F.B.N.) of Lausanne (Suiza), Member of Family Firm Institute (F.F.I.) of the USA and external adviser for Executive Family Boards in Europe and Latin América, among others. He is an expert on generational transition processes, and a specialist mediator in conflict resolution family business. He is the Author of several publications on strategies for family business and he wrote the book “Las Equivocaciones Que Nos Hicieron Triunfar” (“The mistakes which made us succeed”).

Aitken Spence Travels is fully diversified in to every aspect of tourism related activities namely; Leisure, Eco, Adventure, MICE and Cruise. It is considered as the leader in destination management in Sri Lanka with its creative and innovative tours and services. Partnered with the world’s largest tourism integrated company, TUI group, with over three decades of experience, the company is backed by a reputation of being the most professional in the business.

Aitken Spence Travels hosts Top Travel agents from Egypt

10 Dec

Aitken Spence Travels hosts Top Travel agents from Egypt

Top travel agents from Egypt were hosted in Sri Lanka by Aitken Spence Travels for a five-day educational tour in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Cairo and airline partner Emirates Airlines recently. The objective of the familiarization visit was to give them a first-hand experience of the product on offer and ensure that all the agents are educated well in selling Sri Lanka as a leisure destination in Egypt.

Commenting about the destination and what they had experienced, the agents were full of praise at the natural beauty Sri Lanka has to offer. The varied attractions of lush green natural vegetation, misty cool green hill country, the abundant wild life and of course the sun kissed golden sandy beaches were greatly appreciated by the group. The group was of the opinion that Sri Lanka has a better product to offer than regional locations such as Bangkok, Malaysia & Singapore.

We will work closely with the travel agencies in Egypt to popularize Sri Lanka as a preferred leisure destination for Egyptian travelers. Sri Lanka being one of the safest destinations in the world along with its tropical attractions and easy access to visas with traditional Sri Lankan hospitality will be an ideal getaway to the Egyptian traveler.

Aitken Spence Travels the winner of the Presidential award for 3 consecutive years and the only DMC to enter the Hall of Fame as well as being the recipient of Sri Lanka Tourism Award for Professional Conference Organizer. The company was also the proud recipient of the prestigious PATA gold award in 2014 under the Environment – Ecotourism Project for an innovative excursion program developed together with the Elpitiya plantations.

Aitken Spence Travels is fully diversified in to every aspect of tourism related activities namely; Leisure, Eco, Adventure, MICE and Cruise. It is considered as the leader in destination management in Sri Lanka with its creative and innovative tours and services.

Aitken Spence Travels hosts President of the Lebanese Travel Agents Association to Sri Lanka

4 Dec
Lebanese Travel Agents Visiting Sigiriya

The President of the Lebanese Travel Agents Association, Mr. Jean Abboud along with other Lebanese tour agents visiting Sigiriya.

The President of the Lebanese Travel Agents Association, Mr. Jean Abboud along with a group of high profile Lebanese tour agents on an educational tour to Sri Lanka was welcomed and hosted by Aitken Spence Travels recently. The group’s main objective was to update themselves about the destination and explore possibilities of developing new tours based on their 14-year relationship with the company.

As the market leader that penetrated the Lebanese market way back in 2001, Aitken Spence Travels has enjoyed the first mover advantage and handles the bulk of the inbound Lebanese travelers to Sri Lanka. The country recorded over 3,700 Lebanese travelers last year and this number is currently growing at 20 per cent.

The Lebanese travelers prefer to travel to Sri Lanka specifically during Eid, Easter, Christmas and summer holidays which usually fall during June, July & August. Many honeymooners and groups prefer Sri Lanka as a destination and enjoy the many new attractions the country has to offer including shopping at all international branded stores.

Commenting on his visit to Sri Lanka President of the Lebanese Travel Agents Association, Mr. Jean Abboud said “I have been in love with Sri Lanka since my first visit way back in 2001. I could safely say that this is my second home. You have a beautiful country which is a tropical destination to many Lebanese who enjoy attractions such as the abundance of beautiful nature, the rich culture, the sandy beaches and the varied wild life Sri Lanka has to offer. So we need to look at creating more and more new tours highlighting these products to attract travelers from Lebanon that would further strengthen and grow the market”

“We have invested heavily in this market ever since we entered it. All our efforts through promotions, airline promotions and educating the agents has paid rich dividends in reaching the current position. We will not relay on our current laurels and will ensure that we further strengthen the relationships and develop more tours that would help us tap in to untapped potential travelers of Lebanon” stated Mr. Darell de Crusz AVP Marketing of Aitken Spence Travels.

Aitken Spence Travels the winner of the Presidential award for 3 consecutive years and the only DMC to enter the Hall of Fame as well as being the recipient of Sri Lanka Tourism Award for Professional Conference Organizer. The company was also the proud recipient of the prestigious PATA gold award in 2014 under the Environment – Ecotourism Project for an innovative excursion program developed together with the Elpitiya Plantations.

Aitken Spence Travels is fully diversified in to every aspect of tourism related activities namely; Leisure, Eco, Adventure, MICE and Cruise. It is considered as the leader in destination management in Sri Lanka with its creative and innovative tours and services. Partnered with the world’s largest tourism integrated company, TUI group, with over three decades of experience, the company is backed by a reputation of being the most professional in the business.

Newcomer Aitken Spence Technologies Bags Oracle Regional Award

25 Apr

Just in its first year of commercial operations, Aitken Spence Technologies was recognized recently as the “Oracle Partner of the Year ’11, for Fusion Middleware” at an event organized by the global IT giant in Colombo, recently.

The award was one out of only five awards being presented to Oracle Partner Network community numbering over 25 operating in Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The “Oracle Partner Network Days” which is held regionally and in specific countries with large markets was held in Sri Lanka covering the ‘South Asian Growth Economies’ [SAGE] region, recently. Partners are recognized for their contribution towards the growth of Oracle in the assigned territory covering specific vertical solutions by Oracle, annually.

Aitken Spence Technologies operates three core lines of businesses in Enterprise Content Management; Enterprise Resource Planning, both based on core-Oracle Applications & Technologies; and Application Development based on Open Source / Java technologies. These lines are supplemented by managed services, support services and educational services offerings.

“Aitken Spence has recognized ICT as a thrust industry which has a key role to play in building Sri Lanka a as a knowledge economy. We have geared our operations to generate exceptional value to all our stakeholders consistently”, said Dinesh Mendis, Director of Aitken Spence Technologies and Aitken Spence Group.
Aitken Spence Technologies, an Oracle Gold Level Partner, was recently appointed as an Oracle University Education Re-seller Partner and Approved Training Centre, by the Oracle University. As a Re-Seller Partner, Aitken Spence Technologies promotes and markets selected Oracle technology and applications courses, while being an Approved Training Centre facilitates delivery of such courses, leading to the prestigious Oracle University Certifications.

Over 65,000 customers worldwide rely on Oracle’s complete, open and integrated enterprise applications to achieve superior results. Oracle provides a secure path for customers to benefit from the latest technology advances that improve the customer software experience and drive better business performance.

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.”

 

Aitken Spence Profits up by 37pc in first Six months of F/Y 2010/11

2 Nov

Aitken Spence PLC released its second quarter financial results to the Colombo Stock Exchange on Tuesday, reporting a rise in pre-tax profit to Rs.1.6 bn for the 6 months ended 31st March 2010, while profit attributable to shareholders rose by 37 per cent to Rs. 1.05 bn, over the previous year.

The Sri Lanka-based diversified conglomerate’s earnings per share rose by 37 per cent to Rs. 38.65 for the six months while the Group Revenue increased by 11.6 per cent to Rs. 11.92bn

Aitken Spence is among Sri Lanka’s leading corporate entities with interests in hotels, services, logistic solutions and strategic investments in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Deputy Chairman & Managing Director Mr. J M S Brito said, “Our hotels sector performed significantly better during the period under review, driven primarily by our properties in Sri Lanka. We were also able to improve the profits from our chain of resorts in the Maldives.”

He added, “In addition to our active involvement in the expansion of the Port of Colombo, we are moving ahead with major investments in tourism and several other sectors of the country. With an enabling environment for the private sector to invest, Sri Lanka can expect sustained levels of high growth.”

During the period under review, the Ministry of Ports and Aviation and Sri Lanka Ports Authority granted the Aitken Spence-China Merchants Holdings International consortium the letter of intent to design, build, operate and transfer a new deep-water container terminal in Colombo Port following Cabinet approval.

Aitken Spence announced in September 2010 that it signed an agreement with the well known luxury resort operator Six Senses group to establish the first Six Senses property in Sri Lanka as a 50:50 joint venture at a cost of approx.  USD 40 mn.

“The company’s ability to attract a globally acclaimed brand in up-scale sustainable tourism to invest in a major project in Sri Lanka would greatly help Sri Lanka attract similar brands to the island and establish itself as a high-end destination that offers a sustainable tourism product”, said Mr Brito.

With the view to expanding its Container Freight Station activities in order to cater to the expected demand  the Company acquired a  46,000 sq. ft. state-of- the-art Container Freight Station facility during the period under review

On 05th October 2010 the Company subdivided its shares on the basis of  1 ordinary share into 15 ordinary shares. Consequent to the subdivision the number of ordinary shares of the Company increased from 27,066,403 to 405,996,045, without any change to the Stated Capital of the Company of Rs. 2,135 million.

During the six months under review  the Company paid an interim dividend of Rs. 3.50 and a final dividend of Rs. 6.50 per share for the year ended 31st March 2010.. The total dividend payment for the year ended 31st March 2010 amounted to Rs. 270,664,030/-.

Media Release – 02 November 2010

David Stockwell – an affable Brit planning his 24th visit to Sri Lanka

7 Sep

David Stockwell, a 54-year-old, retired Brit, who first visited Sri Lanka in October 1997 fell so deeply in love with this resplendent island that he has so far visited the country 23 times. He is planning his record 24th visit at the end of September.

I met David when he came to Sri Lankan High Commission in London to obtain his visa because he plans to stay over for six weeks this time.

”My first trip to Sri Lanka in 1997 wasn’t planned, but an almost spur of the moment thing, I had some leave owing to me at work and had to use it by the year end. After browsing many different brochures, I came across a Sri Lankan one issued by Kuoni, liked what I saw, and thought that this could be nice”, he recalled.

Booked with Kuoni only about 3 weeks, this was to be a relaxing beach holiday, as no travels around the country were planned. The hotel I chose was The Triton at Ahungalla, now renamed Heritance Ahungalla, he said.

”Well, no guessing for what happened, I fell in love with this place, I had travelled all over the world in my lifetime, but nowhere I had been was like this. The people are so wonderful, and made me feel at home the moment I arrived at the hotel. I vowed I must return, and I did just that the following year, but this time I planned a longer trip and took a round tour before heading back to Ahungalla”, he recounted with a broad smile.

”I visited on my round tour were, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and down to Yala and on through Galle to Ahungalla. Of course, when I arrived back at The Triton, the staff recognized me right away and welcomed me back there with open arms and huge smiles. Now, how nice is that, nowhere I had ever travelled to anywhere in the world  had ever treated me like that!”

”I have now been to Sri Lanka 23 times, and in a few weeks will be my 24th visit to what has become my Second Home, and the staff at Heritance Ahungalla frequently remind me that this is indeed my Second Home, and that they are like an extended family to me”, Stockwell said.

”I now book the hotel directly with them, and book my own flights down too. Incidentally I always fly with SriLankan Airlines, and my holiday begins the moment I board the aircraft at Heathrow. Some members of the airline crew are also familiar faces too and recognize me when I fly with them. So nice”, he enthused.

He said he would recommend Sri Lanka to anyone, and one of the most often asked questions is, “Why do you got there so much?”. “My reply is always the same, “Go and find out”, of course many have, including my own family too, and all have the same opinion now as I do, What a beautiful  country and lovely people too.

”I  have visited Sri Lanka in good times and bad, during the troubles there, and was actually on my way home when the airport was attacked  back in 2001, yes this was a scary time, but even this did not deter me from returning to Sri Lanka”, the affable Brit smiled.

”I am very happy that the troubles in Sri Lanka are now over. The people have gone through some bad times, and now is the chance for them and the country to get back on its feet again, and it so nice to see so much effort to rebuild the tourism trade now”.

“I am now giving something back to Sri Lanka, I am a Destination Expert for Sri Lanka on the Trip Adviser website, in this role I can advise fellow travellers of the best things to see, places to go, hotels to stop at etc. This is all done in my free time without payment, and it is a privilege to do so”, he beamed.

07 September 2010 – As seen on Aitken Spence Hotels Blog.

PIONEERS IN INNOVATION

17 Aug

Aitken Spence plc is a conglomerate of businesses with a long and distinguished history originating in the trading and insurance industries in Sri Lanka, but now involved in hospitality, tourism and the services industries. Mr Rajan Brito,Managing Director, tells Bob Combes about the group’s impressive level of growth and diversity and its pioneering approach to business.

The company was established in 1868 by two Scotsmen, who came out to Sri Lanka when it was a British colony, and when several British companies were set up around the colonial tea plantation industry. Aitken Spence plc, listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange since 1983, was originally named Clark Spence & Company and commenced business activities 141 years ago in Galle. Mr Brito recounts, “Way back in 1876 we were appointed as agents for Lloyds of London, and we became agents for a number of international shipping agencies shortly afterwards. “The company became an agency for the management of tea and rubber plantations that the British set up in the early 1920s.” Since then, Aitken Spence has enjoyed amazing growth and success, and now employs 5,000 staff in its offices and factories, 2,000 of whom work in hotels, and an additional 10,000 of whom work at its tea plantations. With interests in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa, the company was recognized by Forbes as one of the best companies in Asia, with revenues of just under a billion dollars for three consecutive years.

A wide portfolio

Mr Brito continues, “Our activities and products are divided into four areas: travel and tourism, logistics, services, and strategic investments. Our services include acting as an agent for Western Union money transfer, and as the agent in Sri Lanka for OTIS Elevators. We are also an insurance broker, and we are involved in property management. The strategic investment area includes power generation, printing and packaging, garment manufacturing; and tea and rubber plantations. “Aitken Spence is the leading resort operator in Sri Lanka and the largest international hotel chain in the Maldives. We manage 10 hotels in Sri Lanka, four of these being on the west coast, one on the south coast and the others centrally located. We manage seven hotels in the Maldives, and also five hotels in India and five in Oman, with minority stakes in some of them. Through our management capabilities, nurtured for over three decades, many of the properties in our chain of 27 hotels and resorts have, over the years, won many international accolades, especially for service excellence, environmental management and culinary expertise. Among the accolades we have won, is being listed by the Sunday Times of the UK as one of the best places to stay in the world. We were the first LEED certified hotel in the world, and we have won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Merit Award, and the RICS Award 2000, conferred by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, London. We were also the first company to have a Green Globe – certified hotel in Asia. “We are able to add great value to our partners by marketing their hotels through our association with over 200 global tour operators. We have represented TUI since the1970s (known as Thomsons in the UK), the world’s largest integrated tourism company and, since 2003, TUI has become a 50:50 joint venture company with us for inbound and outbound travel in Sri Lanka. “In addition, we act as airline GSA (General Sales Agent) for Singapore Airlines, Kingfisher Airlines and Aeroflot and we also hold agencies for numerous airlines for cargo. As well as being agents for Rail Europe and Tradewinds, we have a representative office for CarlsonWagon Lit.” Aitken Spence also has an extensive fleet of vehicles, organises conventions and exhibitions and has been an IATA (International Association of Travel Agents) approved outbound travel agency since 1952.”

Integrated logistics

Mr Brito explains, “Our integrated logistics and freight-forwarding activities include a storage facility for laden and empty cargo containers, as well as container repairs and conversions. We also undertake local and multi-country cargo consolidation and stuffing at our container freight station. We have our own road transport company, and we contract out to shipping lines as well. We also manage warehouses belonging to us and to other companies, and we have flexi-tanks and refrigerated storage facilities. In addition, we have a garments-on hanger and quality assurance (QA) centre, where we undertake QA activities for garment manufacturers. We are also involved in transportation, and have a fleet of prime movers, trailers and bowsers (fuel and oil tankers). “We are, additionally, involved in heavy and bulk cargo handling. We have represented TNT for over a quarter of a century, and we act as a domestic courier through our subsidiary, Ace Xpress, with 14 courier centres island-wide, and act as agents for Spring Global Mail. Moreover we are also involved in freight-forwarding mainly for the garments trade and also in maritime transport, being agents for Hapag Lloyd and Hyundai.

Maritime activities

“Our maritime activities include port management and development. We have established a partnership with China Merchant Group, and have just submitted a bid for a 35 year contract to design, build and operate a new terminal in the Port of Colombo, worth US$500 million. We are confident that we shall get the contract as we are the sole bidder. We also have an efficiency management contract for the port in Durban, South Africa, which involves us sending our staff there to increase the port’s efficiency, particularly with respect to raising the number of moves per hour.”

Strategic investments

“We have three power-generating plants in Sri Lanka producing 140MWof electricity from thermal power fuelled by oil and diesel, contributing 12 percent of the island’s power. We are working with Caterpillar of the USA and Wärtsila of Finland on our power plants. We have had a printing and packaging plant since 1950, equipped with Heidelberg offset printing machines, and we manufacture garments for Marks & Spencer, Columbia (USA) and Gap in two factories. “For the past 100 years, except for a gap between 1975 and 1995, when the Government nationalised plantations, we have been associated with the plantations industry and are now a partner in a consortium of 33 plantation estates covering 16,000 hectares. ” We also have a joint venture crude palm oil mill – only the second such facility to have been established in Sri Lanka in 30 years.”

Being a pioneer

Mr Brito believes that strength in management and a willingness to explore new opportunities are among several key strengths accounting for the company’s success. “For example, we pioneered the first five-star resort, the first theme resort and the first eco resort in Sri Lanka. Our flagship resort, Heritance Kandalama has become a paradigm for global best practice in terms of sustainable tourism with many pioneering initiatives, which have been replicated in many of our other hotels.”

Reliable and trustworthy

“Lastly, the broad range of our activities means that we are better able to resist the downturn, and we have not been too affected by the recession. The exception has been our operations in the Maldives because these are more reliant on western guests, which, again, we are attempting to change through market diversification strategies focused especially on East Asia. Last year, we were one of the few listed companies in Sri Lanka showing an increase in profit (over 10 percent).We have returned an average revenue growth of 31.5 percent and a profit growth of 16.2 percent over the last four years. “We have ISO-accreditation for all of our activities, and we are partners in the UN Global Compact (a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anticorruption), being members of the steering committee of the local network. The principles of the compact are applied in all of our hotels.

A good time for growth

“Fortunately, the 30 year civil war has just come to an end, and we are seeing a gradual return to tourism particularly as the island has an array of attractions, including very rich biodiversity and cultural heritage. Sri Lanka has the beach, wildlife, rain forests, cricket and now peace, all on a beautiful island. Also, the Tamil diaspora are returning and investing again in the country.

A bright future

As for the future, Aitken Spence is not content to rest on its laurels: “We shall be looking at new opportunities, especially in hotel management, renewable energy, notably wind power, infrastructure development and logistics and transport,” asserts Mr Brito, adding, “We shall also be expanding into the north east of the island where tremendous opportunities lie with the end to the war. We intend to expand our chain of resorts by aggressively pursuing further hotel management contracts in South Asia, the Middle East and South-east Asia. With a unique approach to interventionist management, our new Aitken Spence consultancy arm plans to make inroads in regional markets. “With Sri Lanka on the verge of a boom, we are keen to play amajor role in the development of infrastructure and key services that are particularly in demand in the recently liberated region in the north and east of the country. Building on our management expertise in a myriad of industries, and our experience spanning over 140 years, we will continue to grow the company in ways that serve both our country and our employees,” concludes Mr Brito. With its wide range of services and products, dynamic leadership, pioneering approach to business, and the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka, Aitken Spence surely can look forward to continuing success and prosperity.

As seen on EuroAsia Industry Magazine – Issue 8 – 2009

Aitken Spence Bags Both Top Travel Awards Again and Enters the Hall Of Fame

16 Jun

PRESIDENTIAL AWARDS IN TRAVEL & TOURISM

Aitken Spence Travels and its subsidiary Ace Travel & Conventions won the two most important awards given for travel companies as the Best Destination Management Company and the Best Conference Organiser respectively for the third consecutive year at the Presidential Awards for Travel & Tourism held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall on 15th June 2010.

By winning these two prestigious awards every year since the award scheme was introduced, the two companies have become the first two travel companies to enter the exclusive Hall of Fame.

Aitken Spence Travels continues to demonstrate its leading positing in the industry consistently despite challenging circumstances. With the return of peace to the country, the company is well poised to expand its operations and take Sri Lanka to its rightful position in international tourism. As the largest inbound tour operator in Sri Lanka, it has continued to innovate and is the cynosure in the travel industry. The company will be upgrading its vehicle fleet to maintain international standards. The first five luxury coaches in the first stage of the investment have arrived in Sri Lanka this week and will become operational shortly.

Aitken Spence Travels was the first travel company in Sri Lanka to invest in a fully-automated tour operating system and the first to obtain ISO 9001 and Green Globe certifications 10 years ago. It was also the first travel company in Sri Lanka to receive PATA Gold awards.

Commenting on the accolades received, Mr. Gehan M. Perera, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels and Ace Travels & Conventions and Director of Aitken Spence PLC attributes the phenomenal achievement to the exceptional team at Aitken Spence who continue to rise above themselves and out-perform the market consistently.

“Such achievements are only possible if we continue to work as a well-knit team, to offer outstanding value and service to our customers and principals. We will continue to be customer obsessed in all our endeavours”.

“We are indeed grateful to all our hotel partners and suppliers in Sri Lanka as well as all our overseas tour operators who have supported us throughout our long journey. Whilst acknowledging this honour with humility, we will re-dedicate ourselves to support our partners even more and exceed our customers’ expectations, whilst expanding our operations in the exciting times ahead of us with the dawn of peace and stability in our country”.

With over three decades of experience, Aitken Spence Travels is one of Asia’s foremost destination management companies. It is a joint venture between of Aitken Spence PLC, the Sri Lanka-based diversified conglomerate and TUI Travel Plc, the world’s largest integrated tourism organisation.

Media Release – 16 June 2010

Deputy Chairman/MD Review: J M S Brito

15 Jun

The Group achieved a noteworthy growth during the year 2009/10 despite the many challenges and obstacles placed in its path by both the global and local operating environments, demonstrating the strength and resourcefulness of a resilient organisation which was driven by a clear vision, strategic foresight and a spirit of endurance. The net profit attributable to shareholders increased by 1.8% to Rs. 2.08 billion, although there was a decline in revenue from Rs. 29.3 billion to Rs. 24.4 billion. The reduction in revenue was primarily due to the lower tariff rates applicable to the companies in the power generation segment of the Group. The operating profits for the year declined by 2.0 % to Rs. 4.0 billion while the net profit after tax declined by 2.1 % to Rs. 3.0 billion compared to the previous year.

The share price in your Company as at the year end stood at Rs. 1,373.75 which represents a growth of 336.1%, when compared to the price as at the previous year end, which is a true reflection of the value of the Company. The Total Shareholder Return (TSR) which reflects the total returns received by a shareholder was a positive of 339.3% for the financial year 2009/10.

An indepth analysis of the financial statements is given in the operational and financial reviews. The prolonged downturn of the global economy influenced the Group’s operations during the year, necessitating us to think beyond conventional markets and strategies so as to ensure a continued enhancement of shareholder value. It was heartening to note that many of our businesses – in particular the Cargo Logistics sector – vastly benefited from the diversity of products and services offered within the Group. The prudent and strategic diversification over the years has thus borne fruit, giving the Company the strength to be resilient  during unexpected downturns which could overwhelm corporates that are not geared to meet such situations. With the ending of the three decade long war, Sri Lanka is optimistic of being able to exploit the advantages of a peaceful, stable and unified nation amidst widespread global pessimism. As expected, the dawn of peace led to a resurgence of economic activity across the country, including the North and East, and improved international investor confidence in the ability of Sri Lanka to achieve high economic growth. This improved confidence is clearly evidenced by the fact that Sri Lanka has been listed by several leading global publications as one of the best destinations to visit in 2010.

The dramatic change in the investment climate resulting from the end of the war, coupled with renewed optimism on the future of the country and our conviction of the potential of the tourism industry, merited a shift of focus towards the expansion of the Group’s resort portfolio within Sri Lanka. Having expanded our footprint in the leisure sector across the region and beyond in recent years, the time is now opportune to capitalise on the new opportunities available in Sri Lanka.

Tourism

With the prospects of a growing Sri Lankan market triggering a shift of emphasis towards strengthening our presence in the country, we have fast tracked the Group’s expansion plans in the tourism sector. As a corporate that has pioneered innovative tourism product offerings in Sri Lanka with ten award winning properties, Aitken Spence is uniquely positioned to reap rich dividends from the expected boom of tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka. In view of these developments, we are optimistic and confident that the Tourism sector will be the key engine of growth for the Group over the next few years.

Emphasising our confidence in the future of the tourism sector, the holding company of the Group’s hotels, Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC., successfully concluded a rights issue to raise equity funding of Rs. 2.5 billion in order to finance some of the high priority expansion projects including those in the North and East. In addition to the projects in Sri Lanka, a small portion of the funds will be utilised for the development of a unique resort with floating villas in Kerala, South India, in a joint venture with an Indian partner. Our Heritance properties as well as most of our other properties in Sri Lanka were refurbished and maintained at optimum levels even when the industry was in the doldrums. The Tea Factory was brought under the Heritance brand during the year following a complete upgrade. As such, Aitken Spence is well prepared and poised to take advantage of the expected increase in tourist arrivals during 2010/11.

Key projects rolled out during the year include the conversion of Neptune Hotel, the Group’s first ever resort property, into a sixty four roomed specialised Ayurveda and wellness resort, due to open in December 2010. The Group acquired the ninety four roomed Ramada Resort, formerly known as Golden Sun Resort, in Kalutara which was managed by us since 1998. This resort will be refurbished and upgraded in the near future so that it can command a higher price for the excellent value it offers to the traveller. We also intend developing the 100 acre beachfront property at Nilaveli as a priority project. We are in the process of evaluating a number of options before deciding on the final development plan at Nilaveli which would be aimed at harnessing the maximum value of this prime property. Also in the pipeline is a hotel in Jaffna where there is presently a dearth of high quality accommodation for both international and domestic travellers.

The tourism industry is vitally important to the economy both as a source of direct and indirect employment for a large number of Sri Lankans and as a valuable foreign exchange generator for the country. Therefore, it is desirable that both the government and the private sector work hand in hand to ensure the sustainable growth of the tourism industry. The increased arrivals can be translated to long term growth only through a well planned and cohesive tourism development strategy. The responsibility for the implementation of this strategy should be jointly shouldered by the government and the private sector. Further, the country’s infrastructure ought to be improved in tandem to support the demands of the modern traveller, while the construction of large scale properties providing quality accommodation should be encouraged via investment incentives, in order to gain economies of scale.

The performance of the Group’s resorts in the Maldives was satisfactory during the year as the world recovered from the recession. By the end of the year the Maldives and in particular our resorts, were enjoying heavy demand and high occupancy rates, although the average room rates declined. An increase in average room rates is expected in the coming year. Maldivian authorities are considering a new regime of higher lease rents as well as the introduction of new taxes and as one of the largest international resort operators in the country we hope that conditions conducive to investment and operations will continue in the future.

The destination management segment grew from strength to strength, as tour operators welcomed the dawn of peace in Sri Lanka by increasing their volumes. The segment continues to pursue new markets even as the visitor arrivals from its traditional markets in Europe continued to improve. Increased tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka have resulted in the hotel industry being able to increase room rates. Whilst this would no doubt benefit the earnings of the hotel industry, it could also result in travellers finding Sri Lanka an unattractive destination in terms of price. In order to preserve its competitiveness as a destination, Sri Lanka has to aspire to be more competitive with regional destinations by giving priority to fine tuning a diversified, high quality tourism product which would tangibly justify the increase in rates, as well as attract an assortment of travellers. We also hope that the government would favourably consider a proposal by the travel industry advocating an open skies policy, which would facilitate more airlines and charter flights to the country. It is vital that the world’s major airlines fly to Sri Lanka on a regular basis for the long term development of the tourism industry. The country will truly benefit from such a policy and it is essential that it is accompanied by the liberalisation of ground handling and catering services.

The General Sales Agents for Singapore Airlines and Kingfisher Airlines have reported losses during the period. The global financial crisis which compelled airlines to reduce the number of flights as well as the increased operating costs had an adverse impact on the profitability of this segment. We are hopeful of improved performance in the coming year. Singapore Airlines has already introduced daily night flights while Kingfisher Airlines may also add at least one additional destination to its present schedule of one flight per day from Chennai. Aitken Spence takes pride in managing hotels overseas with a portfolio encompassing five resorts in Oman and five in India. The Indian properties enjoyed a stable year and the Group’s sixth managed property in India will commence operations shortly in time to offer its services during the Commonwealth Games. The profitability in the Oman market reduced this year due to the economic uncertainties in the Middle Eastern hub Dubai, with an almost 30% drop in occupancy. The Group continues to explore new opportunities for management of hotels in other regions, including those in which we already have a presence.

Cargo Logistics

A consortium comprising of Aitken Spence and China Merchant Holdings International – one of China’s largest port operators and a company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange- was the sole bidder to design, build and operate the South Container Terminal development project at the Port of Colombo. Negotiations with the government of Sri Lanka are now at an advanced stage and are expected to reach a successful conclusion during the coming year. Beyond our shores, the maritime sector continues to entrench itself on the African continent; our scope widened during the year with the award of a ship planning contract involving several South African ports, in addition to the existing port efficiency enhancement operations. The integrated logistics segment enjoyed a successful year, during which it also made several investments in expanding its container freight station and warehousing facilities. This organic growth has set the segment on a strong footing to fast forward its activities in the coming year, as an improved business climate and easing global recession enable an increase of rates and greater volumes.

The freight forwarding segment had a very challenging year with profitability in certain business lines declining which was offset through the exceptional contribution made by the express and supply chain segments. As economic activity accelerates in the North and East the segment’s strong credentials of superior terrain knowledge and its experience in the region even during the war years, has made it a preferred choice for those seeking reliable distribution solutions in these areas. The European Commission’s proposal to temporarily withdraw the GSP+ preferential tariff benefits is of much concern to the Group, given the exposure of its Freight and Cargo segments to the apparel, tile and ceramic industries which would be affected. We are hopeful that the government will take necessary steps to prevent the removal of GSP+ thereby preventing any adverse impact on the economy.

Strategic Investments

While our power segment has performed well given the constraints in the industry, we do observe that growth potential in Sri Lanka seems limited in the immediate future. We are disappointed that despite a government policy of awarding all power projects to private sector independent power producers, no such projects have been initiated over the past 5 years. In light of these developments, we are of the view that the time is appropriate for us to venture overseas and utilise our expertise in the region. In addition, the Group continues to pursue green energy projects and other alternative sources. We have already commenced a 2.5 MW hydropower project in Matale and are developing a wind power plant.

Returns from our plantations companies have been disappointing with heavy pressure on their bottom lines due to a wage increase that took retrospective effect. It is important that to be truly competitive, the industry must be allowed to be driven more by market dynamics than by socio-political influence. The effects of global warming are a growing concern, as changing weather patterns have created havoc with traditional plantation schedules. In addition to its tea and rubber bases, the Group is forging ahead with its palm oil segment, which is likely to deliver a healthy rate of return in the long term. The Group’s venture into the palm oil segment has already yielded very encouraging returns. Shortly after the year end we divested our stake in Hayleys Plantation Services Ltd, the holding Companyof Talawakelle Teas Estates PLC, to the Hayleys Group who were the managing agents in keeping with our policy of only owning companies in which we have control of management.

The printing segment which has made several enhancements to its technology and capacity, consolidated its strengths during the year. The segment concentrated on high-end printing jobs to complement its packaging and enhanced its marketing activities. A capacity utilisation study was carried out to identify where greater volumes could be achieved. The segment has also recognised the fact that its present location and plant do not facilitate long term expansion plans and is therefore considering alternatives for relocation. The apparel segment enjoyed a successful year as major buyers returned with a substantial volume of orders. The segment renegotiated prices and improved production efficiencies which enabled it to achieve an encouraging performance. The segment’s current customer profile consists mostly of US buyers and it is therefore unlikely to face the brunt of a GSP+ withdrawal.

Services

The inward money remittance business recorded an excellent growth in volumes although its profitability declined due to global trends. We are optimistic that the year ahead will show an improvement. The North and East which attract large volumes of remittances from Europe and North America have seen increased funds being sent through formal channels with the end of the war. Our expansion plans in the coming year will therefore focus on the newly opened regions. The Group has seen vast benefits from operation and maintenance (O&M) services provided to the power generation segment, with all three power plants generating significant cost savings. The O&M segment focuses on achieving a high degree of reliability through enhanced technical and operational support. Since this segment is now established and experienced, it is seeking opportunities to make its services available to third parties both locally and overseas.

Our OTIS elevator agency has consistently bettered its performances year on year, a trend that continued this year. The segment’s maintenance contracts comprise a major revenue stream while it is poised to benefit from a boom in small and medium-scale construction projects that are expected in the country.

The Lloyds insurance agency showed steady growth and is optimistic of exploiting the opportunities presented through the impending North and East development. The insurance brokering arm has successfully commenced servicing niche clientele outside the Group.

Internal Strengths

The financial shared services centre launched last year, has made significant progress – with the majority of Group companies now under its umbrella. The synergies of shared services have enabled the Group to achieve cost and operational efficiencies. The centralised division has also enabled greater visibility of subsidiary activities at the corporate centre. Relevant activities in the rest of the subsidiary companies, including overseas operations, will be taken over by the centre during the coming year. The Group continues to focus on modernising its IT infrastructure and systems; we will constantly seek ways of speeding up group-wide reporting by means of automation and technology. As we fast forward our activities in the coming year, priority will be given to an IT strategic plan geared towards creating a paperless office and an improved management information system. Fundamentally, the strategy would integrate more robust IT security controls and an effective disaster recovery plan. In order to further strengthen our internal control systems, Aitken Spence will also fine tune its internal audit function which would focus on strengthening systems and processes.

I am proud to note that Aitken Spence did not have a requirement to downsize its operations over the past two years. Moreover, we have persisted with providing ample training and educational assistance to our employees, to ensure their personal and professional development. Today, we have been vindicated as our pool of talent is equipped and eager to deliver the results we seek. I believe that the environment created in our new premises “Aitken Spence Tower II” has also had a positive influence on employee morale. During the year, the majority of the Group’s Colombo-based operations took up residence at the modern, spacious building which has been designed to be environmentally sustainable and built to world class standards. The Group made a number of strides this year in order to further institutionalise its commitment to sustainable development. We developed an integrated sustainability policy that facilitates the achievement of Millennium Development Goals and the principles of the UN Global Compact. As part of the commitment enshrined in the policy, the Group will include the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) sustainability reporting framework in its Annual Reports from this edition onwards. It is noteworthy that the integrated sustainability policy and its implementation, including the application of the GRI Framework, have been driven exclusively by internal expertise.

Appreciations

During the year, two key members of the management board resigned from the services of the Company, I wish to place on record the yeomen contributions made by Mr. Chethiya Perera who, as the CEO of the Adaaran chain of resorts played a major role in building the Maldivian resort sector and Mr. Indrajit Abeywardene who headed the printing sector of the Group and served the Company for over thirty years. We wish them all success. I warmly welcome Mr. Vipula Gunatilleka as the Chief Corporate Officer who joined us during the year, bringing with him solid corporate credentials. I must place on record my appreciation of my colleagues on the Board, whose input has been valuable to me and my management team. Our many stakeholders – customers, business partners, suppliers and communities – have placed their faith in Aitken Spence during good times and bad; their confidence in us is indeed heartening to note and rewarding. Above all, I extend my sincere gratitude to the members of the Aitken Spence team – who have faced one of the most challenging years with an undying spirit and commitment to win. Driven by a shared vision, our employees have amply demonstrated that collective action can and will empower them to reach higher goals. I look ahead with anticipation to the current year which promises to be an exciting one at Aitken Spence as we fast forward our expansion and lead the country’s emergence into a new era of economic strength.

For more infomation on the Groups performance for 2009/2010, click: http://www.aitkenspence.lk/about_us/financial_reports_of_aitken_spence_sri_lanka.asp

Annual Report – Message from Our Deputy Chairman – 15 June 2010