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Covid-hit hotel industry seeks urgent support from government

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THASL Chief says support needed to prevent widespread devastation

Hotel industry alone employs approximately 250,000 staff

Seeks loan interest waiver for Rs. 350 bn debt till business rebounds to pre-pandemic level

Says banks are very understanding but they are reluctant to take a haircut

‘If govt reduces bank taxes by 2-3%, banks would be happy to accommodate our request’

‘There’s a lot of international donor funding available for hospitality industry’

‘None of the hotels have defaulted on any loans before’

‘Industry looks forward to 2021 with determination’

 

BY HARISCHANDRA GUNARATNA

As the hotel industry is forced to live with zero revenues with international travel becoming a long forgotten phenomenon in this Covid world, The Island Financial Review recently spoke with Sanath Ukwatte, President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) to find out how the whole thing is weighing on his mind.

 

Following are excerpts from the interview we had with him.

 

“THASL is recognised for the incredible work it has done to support tourism in Sri Lanka. No other association or industry body of any industry has done so much under so much pressure. The fact that THASL has managed to obtain almost everything we have asked from the government to support the industry is remarkable. No other industry body has managed that”.

“At the moment the entire tourism industry has collectively taken loans amounting to Rs. 350 billion. 80% is from hotels big and small. It’s not as big compared to the assets. Total hotel assets are worth around $10b at present valuations. This fact was mentioned by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during the Budget speech recently. None of the hotels have defaulted on any loans before. Moratorium is only a temporary solution as interest is accumulating during the moratorium period”.

“Since Easter attacks hotel debt is on moratorium. Pandemic came from no where. And again we are on moratorium. That’s why we are requesting the government for an interest waiver for 2 years or until international travel is restored and industry gets back to normal”.

“Banks are very understanding but they are reluctant to take a haircut. If the government reduces their taxes by 2-3% they would be happy to accommodate our request or else the government will have find another mechanism. There’s a lot of international donor funding available for hospitality industry as this is a global problem. 1 in 10 workers is employed by the travel industry, whether it be hotels, airlines, cruise lines, travel agents, theme parks, restaurants, retail etc”.

“As the worst affected industry due to COVID-19, governments world over have announced targeted relief for the hotel sector. Naturally THASL seeks government assistance to grant short-term and medium-term relief for the industry until the business bounces back”.

“We must also remember that our sector was completely crippled by the Easter Sunday attacks and as we were just about recovering from January this year onwards, industry came to a grinding halt in March as a result of this pandemic. Both these unfortunate events were out of our control. Now we are in a serious situation. Our priority is to maintain the livelihoods of 500,000 direct and indirect employees. Hotel industry alone employs approximately 250,000 staff who have undergone years of training. It’s a pity to lose staff who are committed and have made a career in the industry. In total there are 2 million dependents on tourism industry both indirectly and directly.

“In 2018, in addition to the salary, average service charge of a hotel employee was Rs: 25,000 per month. Now all that is lost. Hotels are struggling to pay monthly salaries to their permanent employees as company reserves has now depleted. Already nearly 20,000 have lost jobs. They were mainly trainees or who have worked for less than one year. Even the restrictions between inter provincial travel and 50 people limit for weddings and events have badly impacted on local business”.

“New Year’s Eve which is an important day for all hotels in the country in terms of revenue is all subdued now due to government’s call to restrict gatherings. The businesses are in danger. Cash flow has become a serious issue for hotels and jobs are at risk. That’s why we seek government support to restructure hotel debt with a two year interest waiver and a long term settlement plan for capital repayment”.

“Currently total hotel debt stands around Rs 350 billion. We have also requested the government to grant us the wage support scheme for the most vulnerable employees for which the Cabinet has already given the go-ahead. As a result of the 2nd wave of the virus UNWTO has revised the prospect for the international tourist travel for 2021 to a negative growth. Although we welcome the government’s decision to re-open the airport for tourists from January – a step in the right direction – it will take a minimum two years for the industry to rebound. Small and medium sized enterprises consist about 70% of the tourism industry. That’s why we call for financial and political support to enable critical recovery measures as speedily as possible.”

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CRYSBRO recognised for its entrepreneurial excellence at Star Awards 2020

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Ranjana Mahindasiri, Group HR & Admin Manager, CRYSBRO Group of Companies, receving the Star Award for Farm’s Pride (Pvt.) Ltd

Affirming their leadership in Sri Lanka’s poultry industry, the country’s largest producer of poultry CRYSBRO was recently recognised for their entrepreneurial excellence at star awards 2020. Organised by the Department of Industrial Development and Entrepreneurship Promotion under the Ministry of Industries of the Central Province, the annual State Awards ceremony saw CRYSBRO’s subsidiaries Farm’s Pride (Pvt.) Ltd win a ‘Star Award’ and Midland Breeders (Pvt.) Ltd win the highly coveted ‘Merit Award’ as the Best Performing Entrepreneurs in the large scale manufacturing category within the Central Province.

The prestigious awards ceremony was held at the Grand Kandy Hotel with Governor of the Central Province, Lalith U Gamage attending as its Chief Guest. Held annually, Star Awards is known for its comprehensive assessments of its entrants which entail a mix of field visits, presentations and several rounds of thorough interviews. They assess both the performance of the organization and its operations, as well as its entrepreneurial spirit.

“We are deeply humbled and honoured to receive this national recognition for entrepreneurial excellence and resilience especially during these unprecedented times. Our primary intention when applying to awards is to gain a better understanding of industry best practices and continue to elevate industry benchmarks within our own operations. The comprehensive assessments done by awarding bodies give an opportunity to find where we have to improve and what we are doing right, so that at the end of the day we provide poultry produce of the highest quality and safety to our customers. This is invaluable intel and winning an award thereafter is a cherry on top. I would like to also highlight that this victory is clear reflection of the collective commitment and hard work put in by the team at CRYSBRO as well as the patronage of our loyal customer base”, stated CRYSBRO Group of Companies, Group HR and Admin Manager Ranjana Mahindasiri.

As Sri Lanka’s largest poultry producer, this marks the second time the company is recognised for its excellence in operations. They were first awarded a state honour with the ‘Lak Rakiya Harasara’ award by the Ministry of Manpower.

CRYSBRO actively contributes to bolstering the country’s food security agenda as well as towards empowering the rural economy and its communities, inciting major communal and economical transformation in these regions through a series of powerful grass root initiatives.

Under CRYSBRO’s ‘Diri Saviya’ program, over 1,200 maize and rice farmers as well as 250 plus poultry smallholders are given access to a wealth of essential technical and infrastructural facilities to strengthen their operations, allowing them to sell their produce at market prices without the need for any intermediaries. Through ‘Sisu Diriya’, the company offered study material, scholarships and corporate internships to school children and students completing their university or vocational education. The project also contributed the development of better infrastructure facilities in under-developed schools across the island, as well as the donating of books to libraries.

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Skal International Colombo holds 67th Annual General Meeting

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L-R Chief Guest Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage, Foreign Secretary, Dinushka Chandrasena (president Skal International Colombo), Bernard Wijetunge (Immidiate Past President) and Guest Speaker Rayhan Wanniappa, Director (Air Transportation and Economic Regulation) Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka.

The 67th Annual General meeting of Skal International was held recently at the Taj Samudra in Colombo on February 24. Sk. Dinushka Chandrasena, Managing Director of Travel Talk Asia was elected president and Sk. Ahintha Amarasinghe, Managing Director World Link Travels as Vice President for the year 2021/2022.

The Chief Guest at the event was Admiral Prof Jayanath Colombage, Foreign Secretary and the Guest Speaker was Rayhan Wanniappa, Director Air Transportation and Economic Regulation, Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka.

Skål, founded in 1932, is a professional organization of tourism leaders around the world promoting global tourism and friendship. It is the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism industry with over 12,000 members in 99 countries.

Two new members were inducted during the luncheon, Pankaj Sampat, Area Director (Taj Asia Ltd) and TSL (Taj Safaris Ltd), General Manager for Taj Samudra, Colombo along with Kiran Bussari, Hotel Manager of Taj Samudra, Colombo.

Two awards of recognition for their longstanding service on the Ex-co were given to Sk Zahara Mufti and Sk Sega Nagendra.

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D. Samson Industries signs MoU with Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo

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The formalising of the MOU

D. Samson Industries recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo (FOMUOC). The objective of this partnership was to collaborate for the production of a Beta Brand-Diabetic Shoe Range.

Professor Chandrika Wijeyaratne, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Kasun Rajapaksa, Managing Director of D. Samson Industries (Pvt) Ltd., Professor Vajira Dissanayake, the Dean, Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo , Professor Mandika Wijeyaratne, Head Department of Surgery, Dr. Chathuranga Ranasinghe, Coordinator Sports and Exercise Medicine Unit, Dr Romain Perera, Dr. Thusitha Kahaduwa, Dilshan Rajapaksa, Director at DSI, Oshini Jayasooriya, Business Development Manager at DSI and Janaka Bandara, Assistant Business Development Manager at DSI were among those present at the signing of the MoU.

The number of diabetic patients in Sri Lanka is currently growing at an alarming level which calls for urgent medical attention and focus from medical authorities such as FOMUOC and SLMA. Beta diabetic shoes, produced by D. Samson Industries (Pvt) Ltd, are specially designed shoes intended to offer protection for diabetic feet and reduce the risk of skin breakdown, primarily in case of poor circulation, neuropathy and foot abnormalities. It is necessary to make diabetic patients aware of the benefits of this diabetic footwear, which can protect their feet in every level.

Beta diabetic shoes are designed with a protective interior made with soft material and with no stitching, as sometimes even the smallest prominence can irritate and cause skin breakdown in diabetic foot. The top of the shoe is soft and stretchable to suit tender and deformed feet. In addition, beta diabetic shoes contain special insoles that provide support, conform to the contours of the foot and reduce pressure on the bottom of the foot. The specially designed lightweight soles of the shoes are designed to facilitate ease of mobility.

The continuous improvement and development of the beta brand diabetic footwear will be undertaken with technical advice, research and support from the Faculty of Medicine University of Colombo. With the added advice and consultation of the NIROGI Lanka project of the Sri Lanka Medical Association, this footwear will be of optimal use to diabetic patients.

 

 

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