Sri Lanka Army, fully attuned to the fast-swelling demand in the country’s flourishing hospitality industry rebranded its three eco-friendly holiday resorts on Thursday evening (8) as ‘Lāya’ Hotel chain during a re-launching ceremony at Waters Edge, Battaramulla.
Rebranding of the famous Wadduwa Resort as ‘Lāya Beach’, the popular Kukuleganga Holiday Resort as ‘Lāya Leisure’ and the newest jungle cum beach resort at Yala, Tissamaharama, to be opened shortly as ‘Lāya Safari’, came about following directions given by the Commander of the Army to the Directorate of Welfare at Army Headquarters. A professional team of the civil sector, headed by a Group General Manager is to run these new hotels.
The Chief Guest for the occasion, Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, Commander of the Army, whose innovative thinking in this direction turned a new leaf in the roles and tasks of the organization with this novel approach, made the keynote speech citing the sequence of events led to the re-branding of these hotels on the occasion. (See below)
Lieutenant General Jagath Jayasuriya, Commander of the Army soon after making the new ‘Lāya’ logo public launched the ‘Lāya’ hotel chain website amidst a round of applause. The new group General Manager for ‘Lāya’ hotel chain Mr Sumedha, made a detailed presentation and spoke regarding the exceptional facilities that are provided in these new hotels as serenity, quietude and tranquility returned to the serendib.
A host of renowned hoteliers, business magnates and invitees, together with senior Army officers and retired senior officers, graced the ceremonial launch of the inaugural rebranding today (8) at the invitation of the Directorate of Welfare, the wing responsible for the execution of the new project at Army Headquarters.
Rebranding of these three Army-owned holiday resorts, open to both Army personnel and the public, marks yet another landmark in the sphere of Army welfare while contributing simultaneously to Sri Lanka’s growing hotel industry in a competitive manner, to coincide with the country’s forward-march to be the ‘Miracle of Asia’.
These three rebranded hotels, comprised of executive suites, luxurious rooms, villas, spacious function halls, swimming pools, gymnasiums, sports facilities, modern restaurants and all other state-of-the-art technicalities, provide ideal venues for memorable holidays of rest and recreation.
Rebranded Wadduwa ‘Lāya Beach’ with its 35 Standard and Super Deluxe Rooms that deliver elegance and sophistication with private balcony overlooking the scenic blue ocean and lush hotel garden, provides a soothing blend of refreshing serenity and vitality, to be supplemented with a wide range of exclusive culinary flavour. Wadduwa Holiday Resort was bought by the Army in 1989 for provision of welfare facilities to all ranks in the Army.
The Kukuleganga ‘Lāya Leisure’ with its exceptional single and family-type separate air conditioned and well-furnished Villas, suited to the occupant, lies in a typical valley, surrounded by salubrious climate, emanating from the chain of circling mountains. Nestled in a natural landscape, the guest is well exposed to outdoor activities and thrilling adventure sports. Formerly of the residential quarters of foreign nationals who worked for the nearby hydro-power project at Kukuleganga were taken over afterwards by the Army and re-designed to make one of the most popular holiday resorts in the country.
Bordering the popular Yala National Sanctuary and facing the rolling waves of the Indian ocean to the south, lies the ‘Lāya Safari’, the Army’s most modern Cabana-type star class hotel complex in the deep south of the country which was built by soldiers of the Engineer Service Regiment. Its 20 luxurious Cabanas would surely offer a panoramic view to the visitor, leaving glimpses of eternal memory behind with a service unforgettable at affordable price.
All these three resorts of high standards, managed by the Army are manned by professionals in the hospitality industry to ensure the best standards and quality service to the visitors. ‘Lāya Safari’ at Yala was totally funded by the Army and profits of all these hotels are used for enhancement of welfare projects of soldiers.
Here is the full text of the speech delivered by the Commander of the Army at the rebranding ceremony;
“It was way back in 1989 that the Sri Lanka Army stepped in to the leisure sector with modest beginnings investing in a small leisure property on the western coast of Sri Lanka.
This property was registered with the Tourist Board in 1991 as Army Holiday Resort Wadduwa.
The purpose of this venture was to provide rest and recuperation to Army personnel as a welfare measure. This initiative was taken by the Army while being engaged in counter insurgency which was to drag on for another two decades with political, social and economic ramifications.
Sri Lanka has been a great tourist destination for travelers from all over the globe, particularly from Europe ever since the famous explorer Marco Polo acknowledged Sri Lanka as the finest island in the whole world.
Although the 30 year long internal conflict and terrorism had a negative impact on tourism and dampened the growth of the industry, tourism in Sri Lanka has survived that bleak period.
This feat can be attributed to the three fold uniqueness of Sri Lanka as a tourist destination.
Firstly it is an authentic Tourist destination.
Secondly it is a compact island of 65,610 sq km where a tourist can travel the length and breadth of the country within a few days,
thirdly the unparalleled diversity of the tourism product.
Sri Lanka Army managed its first leisure property at Wadduwa well, enduring the adverse business climate prevailing at the time and was able to acquire its second property in the salubrious climes of Sabaragamuwa in 2005. The Holiday Resort Kukuleganga is today a much sought after destination for nature lovers.
Sri Lanka Army has come a long way engaging in the industry in partnership with the private sector and professionals in the industry.
As most of you are well aware the end of the conflict in 2009 has presented enormous prospects and promises a vibrant period ahead for tourism.
In 2010 immediately after the end of the conflict, Sri Lanka had a growth of 46% in tourist arrivals. The arrivals doubled from 2009 to 2011 with the number of arrivals reaching 855,975 by end 2011.
Sri Lanka was ranked as the number one tourist destination by the New York Times in its list of "31 Places to Go in 2010".
Later named Sri Lanka as the best valued destination for holidays in 2012.
This phenomenon underscored the Mahinda Chinthana policy of His Excellen Mahinda Rajapakse where tourism was identified as one of the drivers of socio-economic development.
The vision for tourism set out therein is to position Sri Lanka as the foremost leisure destination in South Asia. The policy draws on the human resources, natural and cultural endowments, values and ethos as fundamental in transforming Sri Lanka into a centre of excellence offering tourists a high value authentic experience in its unique setting.
The key objectives can be summarised as:
a. Achieving two million tourist arrivals by year 2016.
b. Targeting Upscale Free Independent Travellers (FITS), who are comparatively high spenders.
c. Making tourism Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner.
d. Transforming tourism to become the fastest job creator and help generate employment.
The realisation of the objectives identified will depend on the rapid build up of the capacity of the tourism industry in Sri Lanka. The government has already taken a vigorous approach to achieve the target of a room capacity of 30 000 by 2015. It will continue to support the private sector in capacity build up and operation of the tourism sector.
Sri Lanka is currently in line to achieve the target of two million arrivals by 2016. Nevertheless attracting upscale travellers is yet a challenge.
This could be attributed to the recession in Europe and the stiff competition from Asian destinations such as Malaysia. I am sure this situation can be reversed with the necessary regulation of the industry.
Sri Lanka Army that has been spear heading the nation building effort of the government in the post conflict period in Sri Lanka , feels obliged to align its resources in the leisure sector to contribute towards making Sri Lanka a tourism hub as envisaged in the Mahinda Chinthana policy of His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa.
We now look forward to build on the experience gained, expand and diversify our involvement in the industry in partnership with the private sector in operating and promoting these properties.
We operate our air travel agency since 2011. This too will help in promoting tourism.
In view of this the Sri Lanka Army has taken another step forward by constructing its third hotel at Yala to cater to tourists interested in Safari at the Yala Park and surrounding beaches.
This desire is the very purpose of rebranding of our existing properties at Wadduwa, Kukulaganga and launching our new property in the natural wilderness of the south, with a host of top of the line holiday bungalows located island wide which are scheduled to be added to the line up in the near future.
I am sure with this rebranding of our chain of hotels and bungalows Sri Lanka army,s leisure sector will contribute more to the tourism industry and will grow further with more such hotels lined for opening and construction at passikuda and nilaweli in tco.
With this I conclude and wish you a pleasant evening.”