Tag Archives: Sri Lankan Hotels

Aitken Spence hotels partners with environmental leader EarthCheck

15 Sep

Aitken Spence Hotels is the latest leader in travel and tourism to partner with EarthCheck and certify the environmental practices employed at its chain of hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka, Maldives, India and Oman.

With more than three decades in hospitality and considerable expertise in hotel design, building and management, Aitken Spence Hotels decided to look to EarthCheck to confirm the company’s dedication and commitment to excellence in sustainable tourism.

EarthCheck is the world’s largest certifier of sustainable travel and tourism operators, and will work with the luxury brand portfolios of Heritance, Aitken Spence Hotels & Resorts and Adaaran.

“Environmental sustainability is part of our corporate commitment to responsible business,” said Mr. B H R Sariffo’deen, Assistant Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotels. “While nine of our hotels have already been benchmarked, and three have been certified on the EarthCheck Programme, plans are well underway to ensure that many more become certified in the coming year. Mr. Ravi De Silva, Consultant Social & Environmental Management at Aitken Spence Hotels explained that sustainability is a top corporate priority of the company. The environmental management systems introduced by the company are recognised through the EarthCheck Certifications.

Aitken Spence Hotels is focusing on issues such as reducing, recycling and reusing solid waste; reducing the use of harmful chemicals; conserving energy and water, and improving indoor air quality, all of which have an immediate impact on the environment and the communities where their hotels operate.

Commenting on the EarthCheck partnership, Mr. Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director Aitken Spence Hotels said “Aitken Spence Hotels over the years has invested substantial financial resources and hard work in achieving long term sustainability. Our hotels have been recognised as world class examples of sustainability and have won a number of international accolades. We have experienced that our business associates and our guests are keen to learn about the sustainability practices of the hotels than ever before. Our expertise gained in sustainability in Sri Lanka is now spreading across to our hotels in the Maldives, India & Oman. ”

EarthCheck is considered at the forefront of global sustainability management systems; using advanced science-based benchmarking and capacity building. The programme offers Aitken Spence Hotels a new level of accuracy and transparency that is certification verified by independent, third party auditors.

“Aitken Spence Hotels has long demonstrated their commitment to improving the social, environmental and economic welfare of host communities,” explained Stewart Moore, CEO of EC3 Global. “EarthCheck provides them with a framework for their properties to increase operational efficiencies, maximise the benefit of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, and minimise environmental impacts.” Properties currently participating in the EarthCheck Programme include: Bandarawela Hotel, Browns Beach Hotel, Earls Regency Hotel, Heritance Ahungalla, Heritance Kandalama, Heritance Tea Factory, Hotel Hill Top, Ramada Resort Kalutara and the former Neptune Hotel.

EarthCheck is the world’s largest certifier of sustainable travel and tourism operators with more than 1000 clients in over 70 countries, the company’s EarthCheck Programme responds directly to the major environmental problems facing the planet, including climate change, waste reduction and non-renewable resource management. It provides benchmarking, certification and performance improvement systems that result in average savings of 30 per cent for energy and waste stream, and 20 per cent savings for water consumption.

Media Release – 14 September 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 Hotels reaffirmed as Sri Lanka’s Best Culinary Team

22 Feb

Culinary Art 2010, an event organised by the Chef’s Guild of Sri Lanka awards top achievers in the field of culinary arts; namely, restaurateurs, star category hotel chefs, airline caterers and hotel schools including competitors from  Maldivian hotels. Offering visitors with stunning feasts for the eye, the event is Sri Lanka’s biggest annual food and hotel show held at the BMICH from February 5th – 8th 2010.

Aitken Spence Hotels, once again maintained its reputation for the best culinary tradition in the country. Sri Lanka’s leading resort operator walked away with a total of 136 medals which included 43 Gold’s, 44 Silver’s and 49 Bronze’s. Its flagship hotels, Heritance Ahungalla and Heritance Kandalama were placed first and second respectively in the Gold Medal tally.

Some of the key performers who won special awards for their achievements in individual competition were: Sulari Thabrew, Chathuri Jayasundara, H E Indika Danushka, Pradeep Fonseka and W Dinesh Chaminda of Heritance Ahungalla; S Mahendra Samataunga and Chamara Dilhan De Silva of Heritance Kandalama.

Media Release – 22 February 2010

Aitken Spence Q3 Profits up by 14%

3 Feb

Interim Results of Aitken Spence PLC for the third quarter ended 31 December 2009

Aitken Spence PLC released its third quarter financial results to the Colombo Stock Exchange today, showing a 10 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to Rs 914 mn and a 14.3 per cent rise in profit attributable to shareholders to Rs 541 mn over the same quarter last year.

Aitken Spence is among Sri Lanka’s leading and most respected corporate entities with interests in Hotels, Services, Logistic Solutions and Strategic Investments in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The diversified conglomerate reported Rs 2.14 bn as pre-tax profit and Rs 1.3 bn as profit attributable to shareholders for the nine months ended 31st December;  an increase of 3.3 per cent  and 3.1 per cent respectively over the previous year.

Performance from the Group’s resorts in the Maldives which operate as Adaaran Resorts, showed signs of recovery despite being lower than last year. With seven resorts under its portfolio, Aitken Spence is the largest international resort operator in islands, which was sharply affected by a slump in tourist arrivals due to the global recession.

During the quarter under review, Adaaran Prestige Resorts was acclaimed as “The Indian Ocean’s Leading Water Villa Group” and Adaaran Prestige Water Villas at Meedhupparu won the award for “The Maldives Leading Water Villas” for the second consecutive year at the World Travel Awards ceremony held in London during the 2009 World Travel Market.

“Increased tourist arrivals due to the end of the armed conflict in the country has improved income from our resorts in Sri Lanka during the quarter. An outstanding rebound in tourism is imminent for the next season. With a focused and robust destination marketing strategy that builds a strong country brand internationally, we believe that the private sector is capable of making tourism a key engine of sustainable economic growth for Sri Lanka”, said Mr. J M S Brito, Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Aitken Spence PLC.

Aitken Spence is the largest resort operator in Sri Lanka with nine award-winning properties across the island. The company has announced plans to expand its hospitality portfolio in the island with proposed resorts in the South, North and the East.

Aitken Spence opened the newly-rebranded Heritance Tea Factory in December, which joins Heritance Kandalama, Heritance Ahungalla and Heritance Madurai under the up-market Heritance Hotels & Resorts umbrella.

The company also announced that it will be managing the 130-roomed Ramada Hotel & Convention Centre in New Delhi, which is due to open in March this year. Aitken Spence currently operates five hotels and resorts in India, including the eco-friendly Barefoot at Havelock in the Andaman Islands.

During the quarter, the Group saw a lower contribution from the Aviation sector, which comprises of the Singapore Airlines and Kingfisher Airlines agencies, as a result of reduced frequency of flights and prices.

With the global economy recovering, the Maritime division showed an improved performance over last year during the period under review. Post-war opportunities in the field of domestic transport and logistic management contributed strongly to the performance of the Cargo Logistics sector.

Renegotiated prices and improved production has helped the company’s garment manufacturing arm to post positive results during the quarter.

Media Release – 03 February 2010