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More Sri Lanka hotels in the horizon with Aitken Spence

Trying to reap early benefits from Sri Lanka's recovering tourism health, Aitken Spence hotels is expanding business with plans for new Sri Lanka hotels and resorts on prime beach properties that were kept dormant during the war

More Sri Lanka hotels in the horizon with Aitken Spence

Aitken Spence hotels, one of Sri Lanka’s top hotel firms is aiming at exploiting the profitable business opportunities that will follow as a consequence of the end of the civil war in the country. After the gloomy years are now officially over there is a predicted rise in the demand for Sri Lanka holidays, especially in those untapped areas that remained dormant during the war.

And it is precisely in these regions that Aitken Spence hotels plan to develop new Sri Lanka hotels on prime beach locations, according to the declarations of a senior official. Furthermore, the prestigious Sri Lanka hotel firm also aims at exploiting the profitable opportunities thrown up by the fast growth of the wellness and medicinal tourism where rates from wellbeing are higher:

"Medicinal tourism is one of the fastest growing segments in the tourist trade," Hapugoda declared in an interview with LBO.

The oldest 500-roomed beach resort in the group's chain, located on the popular Beruwela beach on the south-west coast, is being turned into a health resort. This Sri Lanka hotel has been closed and will be re-opened in November 2010 after a complete refurbishment and conversion expected to cost around 300-350 million rupees and expected to revamp the Sri Lanka holiday potential for health and wellbeing.

"We decided to make it exclusively a yoga, meditation and ayurveda hotel. We're drawing up plans at the moment for its conversion," Hapugoda said.

"We already have our ayurveda section in the present property which is operational. We've made a good name for authentic ayurveda. We want to expand to yoga and meditation which is a growing market, especially in Europe."

After being re-opened, rates at this newly changed Sri Lanka hotel will be "much, much higher" than what it would be able to derive if it remained in its present state.

When it comes to re-developing those beach properties that had been dormant during the 30-year war which ended in May, Aitken Spence’ plans are already under way.

"We're strongly looking at (northern) Jaffna and also we have 105 acres on the Nilaveli stretch (on the east coast)," Hapugoda said. "We're looking at projects in these areas."

Furthermore, the hotel company has also revived a project with the Six Senses global spa chain to develop an up-market resort close to Neptune Hotel in the Beruwela area on the south-west coast, and this time for a more city type of Sri Lanka holidays.

"We're also look for an opportunity for a hotel in Colombo where we don’t have one - either buying or building one."

Aitken Spence Hotels also plans to expand their reach to India holidays, wit a resort planned in the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

"The Andamans is a very unique location - voted as one of the best beaches in Asia," said Hapugoda. "It is an eco-friendly property, very up-market and exclusive. We're looking at expanding it to 36 villas. We now have only 20."

Moreover, they also have intentions of putting up a hotel in Cochin in India's Kerala state.

The firm, who owns or manages luxury hotels and resorts in Sri Lanka and operates serving the accommodation sector for Sri Lanka holidays, Maldives holidays, India holidays and Oman holidays, said a recovery in occupancy is expected in Aitken Spence's Maldives resorts and Sri Lanka hotels .

"The Maldives as a whole has experienced a downturn because of the global economic turmoil. But we're seeing a recovery and next year it should stabilise. We already see an increase in demand for our Sri Lankan hotels," said Hapugoda. "We're very upbeat on the prospects in Sri Lanka."

All the group's bigger properties have recently been refurbished or are being refurbished and ready to take the up turn.

"All this time we were compelled to compete on price (in Sri Lanka)," said Hapugoda. "Now the situation has changed (with the end of the war). We can now compete on quality, service and facilities."

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