Sri Lanka all primed for business

A SURGE in foreign investment and trade missions to Sri Lanka is expected to grow the destination’s business travel segment, as well as its ability to host business events.

Speaking to TTG Asia e-Daily on the sidelines of a Sri Lanka Business Association investment seminar, Duminda Ariyasinghe, executive director (investment promotion), Board of Investment of Sri Lanka, said: “Increased trade missions to Sri Lanka will benefit tourism arrivals, while property investments will boost the country’s infrastructure. Singapore arrivals into Sri Lanka are growing (up 34.3 per cent between 2010 and 2011), and trade missions and business trips are playing a part.”

“Then, there is Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, which is going to open two hotels in Sri Lanka,” he added.

The Hong Kong-based hotel chain will open the 661-key Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo in mid-2015. Its second property in Sri Lanka, the 315-key Shangri-La’s Hambantota Resort & Spa, will open in 2014, and will be surrounded by an 18-hole golf course.

Other upcoming foreign investments include an US$800 million resort development in Katana by South Africa’s Sun City; the US$250 million Havelock City luxury residential, commercial and lifestyle project in Colombo, backed by Singaporean S.P. Tao who was also behind the capital’s World Trade Centre; and a US$115 million mixed-use development by Singapore’s Mustafa Shopping Centre.

According to Ariyasinghe, the Sri Lankan government is also planning to establish a waterfront development in Colombo comprising a convention centre as well as commercial and entertainment outlets, although no timeline has been set as yet.

Hiran Cooray, chairman, Jetwing Hotels, said Sri Lanka was “poised to (become) a premium MICE destination”. “We may not build something like Resorts World Sentosa right away; maybe within the next five years,” he added.

Meanwhile, Jetwing Hotels is busy expanding its portfolio to cater to the increasing number of Asian visitors to Sri Lanka. The group has overhauled and repositioned the former Blue Lagoon in Negombo from a two-star resort into the luxurious Jetwing Blue Negombo, complete with meeting facilities including a grand ballroom for 800-pax (theatre-style).

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