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Four questions with Sri Lankan Hotelier Sanjiv Hulugalle of Mauna Lani, Hawaii



We publish an interview with Sanjiv Hulugalle, the General Manager and Vice President of Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection in Hawaii on opening his Hotel last November and the protocol that had to be adopted to meet the issues. The strategy adopted is of relevance for Sri Lanka when we are presently mapping a policy to open the country for tourism.

by Christina O’Connor Pacific Business News

When Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection reopened in January of 2020 following a $200 million redesign, Vice President and General Manager Sanjiv Hulugalle had been looking forward to welcoming guests to the revamped property.

Instead, the Hawaii Island resort was closed for most of the year, having shuttered in March due to Covid-19. Following a months-long closure, Mauna Lani reopened in November 2020.

We recently checked in with Hulugalle to chat about the reopening, current operations and his outlook for the future.

How have things been going since reopening?

We opened in early November, and we opened pretty much everything – the guest rooms including all our amenities and all of our operations, obviously with a much lower number of employees. We originally had about 600 employees, we have less than 300 employees back to work now.

We’re finding that we are doing anywhere from 30-40% occupancy on any given day. Even with the number of reservations we have, it’s better to be open than closed, because our burn rate was so much higher having it closed, from a cash-flow perspective. It has a much more positive effect on the team and the employees’ morale as well.

We actually opened [on-property restaurant] Canoe House in July, and that has been a huge success. We are doing half-capacity of what we normally did, but even with that, we now have a waiting list of about two months to get into that restaurant.

Have you noticed any new trends in what guests are looking for?

We’re seeing that people who want to travel, are not rate resistant. They want to make sure that we are following safety protocols, but they also want to make sure that we have all of our services open, including things like the Spa, the Fitness Center, Golf and Restaurants.

We are finding that our bungalows, which are like Residences, are in very high demand. Some have sold out for the holiday season. Families are looking to travel and want completely private experiences.

We have also launched a program to accommodate guests who want to continue to work and learn remotely while staying with us. We have spaces in the resort that we’ve created where guests can bring their computers and sit down to work. I saw a group of kids the other day at a long table that we set up at the south lanai of the resort, and all of them were on the computer doing [online] classes. We’re just trying to make it really fun and easy and engaging.

One of the things that we have found is that we are now providing more educational experiences to guests – doing things like our Turtle program [Malam a Honu], and teaching guests about the ecology of our surroundings around the ponds.

Tell me about some of the health and safety protocols you’ve implemented.

Our goal is to have a safe environment for all of our guests, employees and the community.

For all of our guests, when they check in, we make sure that they have a negative Covid test prior to their stay, and also all of our guests who come from the local surroundings, we do a temperature check on them at the entrance and we ask them specific [health] questions. We have taken a proactive approach to make it easy for guests to do their pre-travel testing by partnering with a company called Vault.

Guests have a lot of questions about how does it all work and what are the testing protocols. We have a pre-arrival team that is dedicated to taking care of guests’ questions on pre-arrival Covid -19 testing. We call every single guest before they come and make sure they have all of their documentation and all of that information.

We test our employees every three days – we’ll do a screening of 50 [employees] in different departments. The team member testing has given confidence to the employees, which obviously has given confidence to the guests as well.

I think the most important thing is sending reminders to guests of mask usage. All guests, when they are moving around the resort, have to wear a mask. It’s an important part of safeguarding our guests, our employees and the community, and we make sure that that happens.

We make sure that [lounge chairs and beach chairs] are socially distanced. We are also very careful in the back of house – or heart of house, as I call it – we have very strict protocols with regard to the handling of equipment and supplies coming in. At our restaurants, we continue to use gloves – for every new table we touch, we change our gloves. And we also have Sanitizer available everywhere.

How do you envision the future for the property as we move into 2021?

I think it’s going to be challenging, there is no question. It’s going to be a challenging market place, but I think there is so much pent-up demand that when we do get the vaccine in full effect and we have a lot more confidence in travel, I think things are going to come back strong. People will be a lot more conscientious about safety, but people want to travel and I think Hawaii is going to be a destination where people really want to come.

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Cabraal briefs Chief Incumbents on Port City Project Commission Bill



On the instructions of the President and the Prime Minister, State Minister of Finance Ajith Nivard Cabraal on April 19 visited the Asgiriya Chapter, the Malwathu Chapter and the Chief Prelates of the Amarapura and Ramanna Maha Nikayas and briefed them on the relevant draft commission bill on Port City Project.

Cabinet Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, Minister of State Lohan Ratwatte, Minister of State Kanaka Herath, MP Wasantha Yapa Bandara and MP Kokila Gunawardena were also present on the occasion.



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Growing importance of training for nurses taking care of patients with NCDs



To keep pace with the rapid expansion and increasing complexity of elderly home healthcare, training needs of home healthcare nurses must be identified and subsequent training programs implemented. English Nursing Care conducts training sessions on a weekly basis covering a variety of care needs for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) such as diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) record that NCDs are estimated to account for 75% of total deaths in Sri Lanka.

Furthermore, according to the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health “although people are living longer, they live more years suffering from disease and disability, mainly from NCDs; life expectancy at birth in Sri Lanka is 74.9 years but healthy life expectancy at birth is only 67.0 years.” This has a significant impact on quality of life.

English Nursing Care Sri Lanka works towards improving the quality of life of the elderly living with NCD’s by training nurses on the most advanced and developed methodologies brought through years of experience internationally and locally. Being responsible for the well-being of your loved ones is pivotal in the service they provide.

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SriLankan Airlines welcomes Indian delegation to Sri Lanka



SriLankan Airlines in a bid to recommence Indian tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka under the proposed bio-bubble tourist arrival concept successfully completed a familiarization tour for Indian media and travel trade professionals recently. A delegation of tour operators, agents, and senior editors representing influential media institutions concluded a familiarization tour in Sri Lanka.

The delegation spent six nights and seven days touring the country while being subjected to mandatory PCR testing and other health guidelines imposed by the Ministry of Health. Upon arriving in Sri Lanka, the delegation toured the most sought-after local tourist sites including Dambulla, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya, and Bentota. The tour was initiated by SriLankan Holidays and the ground arrangements for the tour were handled by Jetwing Travels, Aitken Spence, Sri Lanka Convention Bureau (SLCB), and Hamoos Travels.

The main purpose of their participation in this fam tour was to restore confidence in visiting Sri Lanka, especially among the Indian tourists to provide them in-depth knowledge on how the country’s tourism industry operates under the bio-bubble concept. Apart from visiting various places, they experienced the stringent health and safety protocols adopted by the country in resuming tourism under the “bio-bubble” concept allowing tourists to roam around without mixing with the local population.

During their stay here, the delegation was hosted for a virtual meet-and-greet with SriLankan Airlines Chairman Ashok Pathirage, Chief Executive Officer Vipula Gunathilleka, and Head of Worldwide Sales & Distribution Dimuthu Tennakoon. The discussion focused on the airline’s operations to India, vaccination and quarantine travel arrangements between the two countries, current safety measures, and guidelines pertaining to the bio-bubble concept. They lauded the effort taken by officials to make their trip a memorable one.

The Indian delegation was highly impressed with the opportunities they were given to travel and explore the country and its exclusive holiday prospects for the enthusiastic traveller. This fam tour was a manifestation of the immense potential of Sri Lanka as a post-covid travel destination enticing the Indian traveller.



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