Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

TUI – World’s Largest Tourism Group to Boost Destination Sri Lanka

3 Mar
TUI_CEO_Fritz Joussen

Fritz Joussen, Group CEO – TUI Group

A high profile delegation of TUI, the world’s number one integrated tourism Group, headed by the Group CEO Fritz Joussen will be visiting Sri Lanka today (Thursday). Organized by its joint venture partner Aitken Spence Travels, this would be the first time that Fritz Joussen will be visiting Sri Lanka. Joussen will be accompanied by other TUI top-level executives including: the CEO of TUI Germany, Managing Director of Product and Purchasing, CEO of TUI Nordic and Managing Director of TUI UK and Ireland on this visit. This visit highlights the focus on destination Sri Lanka and is a major endorsement from the global tourism giant.

TUI provides services along the entire tourism value chain for its 30 million plus customers from 31 source markets travelling to 180 destinations. It employs over 77,000 people in 130 countries. The group owns over 300 hotels & resorts with 210,000 beds, operating 136 aircrafts and 12 cruise ships. The company boasts revenues of €20.1 Billion in turnover and an operating result of €1.069 Billion. The TUI Group’s share is listed on the London Stock Exchange in the FTSE index and in the regulated market of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

The TUI group is an equal share partner of Aitken Spence Travels, the largest travel company in Sri Lanka. TUI enjoys a relationship of thirty five years with Aitken Spence, promoting Sri Lanka as a destination across a wide variety of source markets, especially in Europe. The partnership will be further strengthened with the commencement of planned charters from UK and Scandinavia, planned to start in the near future, along with the expected increase in arrivals from Germany and the Benelux region. The Lankan tourism industry will benefit greatly from these initiatives, adding traction to the tourism master plan of the country.

The TUI team is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe, the Minister of Tourism Hon. John Amarathunga and with other key tourism industry officials during their one-day stay.

The delegation will also make visit to 501-room RIU Ahungalla – a joint venture with Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings, which is currently under development. In addition, the TUI team will also visit other hotels that would be featured in its brochures. RIU Ahungalla once completed will be Sri Lanka’s largest beach hotel with 501 rooms. The hotel will offer a new segment of “all inclusive,” a first of its kind to Sri Lankan consumers and will extend its wings to its brand loyal customers travelling the globe. The TUI Charter operation will definitely generate more opportunities for other hotels to generate more business due to the increase in arrivals.

“TUI has continued to express interest in Sri Lanka as an important destination in the region. This historic visit is a result of a longstanding commitment and the growing openness in Sri Lanka. The overall increase of business from TUI will create opportunities for the growth of inbound numbers and the potential development of Sri Lanka’s tourism product that this visit may facilitate”, said Nalin Jayasundara, Managing Director, Aitken Spence Travels and a respected industry veteran.

As the country’s biggest tour operator, Aitken Spence Travels handles an annual volume of over 125,000 inbound tourists, and continuously strives to contribute to the growth of inbound volumes to the country.

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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 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.

Aitken Spence Hosts WACO International Conference in Colombo

3 Dec
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From left to right: Mr. Rohantha Peiris – Managing Director, Aitken Spence Cargo, Mr. Jerome Brohier – Vice President, Aitken Spence Cargo, Waco board members Mr. Shinji Kitamura , Mr. Kristjan Palsson , Mr. Rajan Brito – Deputy Chairman and Managing Director, Aitken Spence PLC, Mr. Thomas Reuter – Waco board member, Mr. Stephen Knight – Chairman,Waco, Mr. Richard Charles – Executive Director,Waco, Mr. Arthur A. Da Silva – Vice Chairman, Waco & Dr. Parakrama Dissanayake – Chairman & CEO Aitken Spence Maritime & Logistics and Director of Aitken Spence PLC.

Aitken Spence Cargo hosted the 83rd General meeting of WACO, the world’s foremost independent global freight management & logistics networkrecently, for the first time in Sri Lanka.

With 64 countries in attendance, the event gives the network global partners the opportunity to meet during the bilateral meetings and discuss future plans and strategies as well as review past initiatives.Aitken Spence Cargo was the host member and is the WACO representative in Sri Lanka since 2002.

An exclusive network consisting of independent freight management companies, Waco was founded in 1973. Its current membership is from 104 countries in over 450 locations employing over 30,000 freight professionals handling over 2 million shipments per year with an annual turnover of USD 4 billion. The company is an association owned by its members with its corporate head office in Zurich and operational management in London.

Aitken Spence Maritime & Logistics Chairman & CEO and Director of Aitken Spence PLC Dr.Parakrama Dissanayake spoke on “Global Container Shipping – Challenges / Trends and Implications on Indian Sub-Continent Transhipment Hubs”, as the keynote speaker.

Members of the Board of WACO led by its Chairman Stephen Knight, at a meeting with Aitken Spence representatives led by its Deputy Chairman and Managing Director J M S Brito discussed opportunities arising from the new government’sagenda for infrastructure development and initiatives in propelling Sri Lanka as a maritime hub.

Aitken Spence is Sri Lanka’s largest integrated logistics services provider. Aitken Spence Cargo is considered as the company that pioneered freight forwarding in the country, now providing total freight and logistics solutions with offices in 15 locations. It has offices in Bangladesh, Maldives and Pakistan. Aitken Spence Cargo represents Qatar Airways Cargo in Sri Lanka, TNT Express in Sri Lanka & Maldives, while also representing SriLankan Airlines Cargo in theMaldives and Bangladesh.

Fiji Ports pays record dividend to government

27 Jun

As published on the the Fijivillage on the 27th of June 2014

The Fiji Ports Corporation Limited has paid a record dividend of $3.698 million to government for the 2013 financial year.

Chairman of Fiji Ports Corporation Limited, Tevita Kuruvakadua said the payment represents a 1.2% increase over prior years and is the highest ever paid by Fiji Ports to the government.

Kuruvakadua said year 2013 signified considerable change for Fiji Ports, a situation brought about through the signing of a Public Private Partnership agreement with Sri Lankan firm Aitken Spence for the management of Ports Terminal Limited.

He said the Fiji Ports Group recorded strong and profitable trading results for 2013, representing successive increases form 2010 onwards.

Kuruvakadua added that the 2013 financial results included extraordinary outcomes, given the recognition of $6.3 million gain on sale for Ports Terminal Limited shares to Aitken Spence.

Story by Filipe Naikaso

Aitken Spence Posts Rs. 1.2 bn Profits for 6-Months

14 Nov

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Diversified conglomerate Aitken Spence PLC’s  for the first six months has been negatively impacted by its power sector whilst the other key sectors, tourism, and maritime & logistics have performed positively.

Aitken Spence posted a pre-tax profit of Rs. 1.88 bn for six months ended 30 September 2013, a decrease of 9.2 per cent from the corresponding period last year.

The blue-chip’s half-year results released to the Colombo Stock Exchange show a fall of 19.8 per cent in group revenue to Rs. 14.9 bn. Profit attributable to shareholders declined by 10.6 per cent to Rs. 1.2 bn while earnings per share decreased by 10.6 per cent to Rs. 3.05, over the corresponding period.

Revenue from its tourism sector, comprising travels and hotels in Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Oman was up by 6.7 per cent to Rs.6.3 bn for the six months, whilst the sector’s pre-tax profits surged by 26 per cent to Rs. 1.2 bn.

Maritime and Logistics sector saw its revenue increase by 12.3 per cent to Rs. 3.2 bn and pre-tax profits rose by 11.6 per cent to Rs. 343 mn. Aitken Spence is Sri Lanka’s largest player in logistics with interests in the whole gamut of logistics operations, as well port management operations in Africa and the South Pacific.  The contribution from the recently acquired subsidiary Ports Terminal Ltd Fiji, which is also managed by the Group boosted the profits of the sector. 

The printing and garment manufacturing sectors also showed strong growth during the period under review.

The Aitken Spence power plants in Matara and Horana were not operational during the reporting period consequent to the cessation of the Power Purchase Agreements, while the power plant in Embilipitiya remained operational albeit with curtailed generation.

Aitken Spence PLC is among Sri Lanka’s leading and most respected corporate entities with operations in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange since 1983, it has major interests in hotels, travel, maritime services, logistics and power generation. The group also has a significant presence in plantations, printing, financial services, insurance, information technology and garments. Aitken Spence was recognized as the Best Corporate Citizen by the country’s leading chamber of commerce for 2012.

During the period under review the Group acquired 51 per cent of shares in Ports Terminal Limited through a public-private partnership and took over the managerial and operational responsibilities at the Ports of Suva and Lautoka, in Fiji.

Recently Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC, a subsidiary company entered into a shareholders’ agreement with RIU Hotels of Spain to build a 500 room five star luxury resort in Ahungalla, costing approximately USD 100m.

Aitken Spence recently opened a new sector for the Sri Lankan economy by commencing a luxury retirement community project that will comprise of 140 villas and high-end facilities located in Negombo. The project aims to attract Sri Lankans living overseas who wish to return to their homeland as well as foreign nationals who wish to live and invest in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lankan Conglomerate Combines Southern Highway and Mattala Airport for Hotel Project

5 Nov

Aitken Spence partners with RIU Hotels Spain to build USD 100mn resort in Ahungalla spearheading the first business model around Southern development.

Aitken Spence PLC will launch the first business model involving the Southern Highway and the Mattala Airport by investing in a USD 100 million beach resort in Ahungalla to be managed by an international hotel chain.  The 5 story 500 roomed 5 star luxury resort which will be managed by RIU Hotels, Spain, would also be a first for the Spanish chain, being their inaugural project in the Asia Pacific region.

“The timing of the hotel’s opening will be right since the Southern Highway to Hambantota is expected to reach completion by then and we have the Mattala Airport facility already in place, giving us the perfect mix for our business model.  Aitken Spence has always encouraged infrastructure development in the country and our investment is proof of our confidence and support of the Government’s development plans” said Rajan Brito, Deputy Chairman of the Group.

The Aitken Spence management is also of the opinion that the private sector needs to develop business modes of this nature, which are in line with the Government’s vision for the country’s development. 

The project will also be unique in its concept, since it will introduce Charter flights to the country.  The hotel which would cater to high end customers looking for long stay vacations will arrive on Boeing 787 Dreamliner charters which can carry upto 200 – 300 passengers at a time.  RIU Hotels, is an all-inclusive model which has seen international success across 107 properties managed by them in 16 countries.

This business model spearheaded by the Group, would also have a snowball effect in developing the tourist industry, particularly in the deep South of the country.

“This would be a huge boost to the tourism sector as 700 – 800 guests coming into the country in one go would help in creating international awareness of  as an emerging holiday destination in Asia” says the Deputy Chairman.

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After Decades of War, Sri Lanka Bounces Back

6 Nov

Billions in foreign money, especially from China, are pouring in

By Frederik Balfour

As recently as a year and a half ago, life in Colombo was tense. Residents were under constant threat of suicide bombs, and armed guards at checkpoints made crossing the city a hassle. “You went out every day not knowing what would happen,” recalls Richard Vokes, Asian Development Bank (ADB) country director. Since Sri Lankan government forces defeated the Tamil Tigers rebel group in May 2009, though, the sandbags and checkpoints are mostly gone, tourists stroll the palm-fringed seaside promenade, and locals fly kites in front of the majestic colonial-era Galle Face Hotel. Living in Colombo is now “a very pleasant experience,” Vokes says.

The ADB expects Sri Lanka’s economy to grow as much as 8 percent this year and next. Colombo’s stock market is the world’s second-best performer (after Mongolia) in 2010, more than doubling in value even as many investors wait to see whether the stability holds. Visits from foreigners have increased 40 percent so far this year and are expected to top 600,000 for 2010. The government hopes that number will hit 2.5 million by 2016 as word spreads about the white sand beaches, rainforests teeming with wildlife, and ancient temples nestled in the lush hillsides of the newly peaceful island nation. “Sri Lanka has been a closed shop for 30 years,” says Joseph Michael Suresh Brito, chief executive officer of Colombo-based Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings, which is working with a Thai company on a $40 million community of luxury villas on the south coast. “People will come with no fear.”

Tourism is one of three sectors the government is counting on to help reduce Sri Lanka’s reliance on the garment trade and low-end manufacturing. At least a half-dozen resorts and hotels are in the works, including a $150 million property that Hong Kong-based Shangri-La is planning for Colombo’s waterfront. IT outsourcing, another preferred sector, already employs 60,000 and is on track to bring in revenues of $350 million this year. By 2015 the government hopes outsourcing revenues will hit $1 billion. Agricultural exports, the government’s third priority, grew 21 percent in the first eight months of the year, as farms that lay fallow during the conflict now yield rich crops of rice, lentils, and beans.

After decades of neglect and sabotage, Sri Lanka’s roads, railways, and ports are ill-prepared for the growth. The government is planning billions of dollars in investment to upgrade dilapidated infrastructure, with much of the work going to multinationals. Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Construction is building a four-mile breakwater for a new container port in Colombo. Indian utility NTPC (NTPC) is close to a deal to build a $900 million coal-fired power plant on the east coast. And Swiss cement maker Holcim’s Sri Lankan business is up 22 percent this year. “Being here at this moment is fantastic,” says Stefan Huber, Sri Lanka CEO for Holcim. As in many other developing countries, China’s influence is growing. A $455 million loan from China Eximbank paid for a 300-megawatt power plant scheduled to open next year, and an additional $560 million in loans from China will go toward new roads, including a 20-mile expressway to Colombo’s airport. In the south, Chinese workers are wrapping up the first phase of a $1.4 billion port in the town of Hambantota. Nearby, a Chinese construction company is building Sri Lanka’s second international airport at a cost of $210 million.

Many foreigners, though, have been slow to put their money on the line. In the first six months of 2010, Sri Lanka saw $208 million in foreign direct investment, down from $253 million in the first half last year. “There is a lot of renewed interest, but most of it is yet to be realized,” says Nick Nicolaou, Sri Lanka chief for London-based bank HSBC (HBC). Some investors grouse that the Board of Investment, a government agency that must approve foreign-funded projects, makes it difficult to do business in the country. Says the board’s chairman, Jayampathi Bandaranayake: “It’s fair to say we could improve our services.” He argues that as the board focuses on priority sectors, it will simplify the approval process and offer incentives to investors. “There’s an expectation of big investments in tailor-made areas,” says Bandaranayake.

One big worry is red tape and graft. Watchdog group Transparency International on Oct. 26 ranked Sri Lanka 91st out of 178 countries in terms of corruption. (No. 1 Denmark is the least corrupt country.) That put Sri Lanka one spot behind India, though well ahead of Vietnam (ranked 116). In July the European Union rescinded Sri Lanka’s preferential trade access because of the country’s human rights record.

Foreigners and Sri Lankans grumble privately about the growing power of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. After Rajapaksa was elected to a second term in January and his party swept parliamentary elections in April, Parliament lifted a two-term limit for the presidency. Three of Rajapaksa’s brothers hold top government posts, and his 24-year-old son is in Parliament. “We haven’t seen evidence of it yet, but if the family’s power is used in the wrong way, then we have a big problem,” says Mark Mobius, who has invested in Sri Lankan stocks and bonds as part of the $33 billion he manages for Franklin Templeton Investments.

Government officials say human rights issues are a top priority that Parliament is addressing. While they acknowledge that corruption is a problem, they insist it’s no worse than in neighboring countries. The government, says presidential spokesman Lucien Rajakarunanayake, has “a commitment to minimize” corruption. Officials acknowledge that corruption is a problem, but businesspeople say it’s no worse than in neighboring countries. And Rajapaksa’s family, many people in business and government say, provides the stable leadership needed in the recovering country. “The Rajapaksa brothers seem powerful, but this issue didn’t happen overnight,” says Nirupama Rajapaksa, the president’s cousin and a member of Parliament. “Our family has been in politics since 1931.”

The bottom line: Sri Lanka is poised for rapid growth as its economy bounces back from decades of civil war.

As seen on Bloomberg Businessweek on 4 November 2010. For more info, click: http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/nov2010/gb2010113_352751.htm

Media Release – 4 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