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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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HNB promotes cashless transactions; joins CBSL’s ‘Rata Purama LANKAQR’ campaign



Chief Guest for the event Money and Capital Markets and State Enterprise Reforms State Minister Ajith Nivard Cabraal, CBSL Deputy Governor and National Payments Council chairperson Yvette Fernando, and CBSL Payments and Settlements Director D. Kumaratunge with HNB Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Dilshan Rodrigo as he completes a transaction via HNB SOLO at a merchant stall

HNB PLC, partnered with the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to promote the Colombo-leg of ‘Rata Purama LANKA QR’ campaign at Diyatha Uyana, to raise awareness and encourage the public towards cashless payments.

Having already linked LANKA QR to its digital payment app HNB SOLO, the bank was among other financial institutions and telecommunication partners in joining efforts to make cashless QR-code based payments the standard for mobile phones and digital payments countrywide, in moving towards a cashless and digitally-savvy Sri Lanka.

“We are entering a new era of financial technology, where almost all of our daily transactions will require no physical banknotes, but just a smartphone and internet connection with our bank account integrated to a digital payment app.

The Central Bank’s national directive for banks and financial institutions to adopt and integrate LANKA QR into their existing digital payment solutions has prompted an aggressive onboarding of merchants to the new payment solution across the country. With our extensive customer base, SOLO is no doubt a significant contributor to this innovative initiative,” HNB Deputy General Manager – Retail and SME Banking, Sanjay Wijemanne said.

The Colombo-leg of the ‘Rata Purama LANKA QR’ campaign raised awareness regarding SOLO’s many facilities, including zero human interaction, efficiency, and eliminated risks that influenced many vendors to come on board.



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Bank of Ceylon empowering nation with Lanka Q



The Bank of Ceylon in its mission to assist the government initiative to empower Sri Lanka through digital technology is joining the customer awareness campaign of Central Bank of Sri Lanka’s Lanka QR digital platform.

Bank of Ceylon had its most recent major awareness programs in Borella and Maharagama along with the other branches in Colombo District in line with the Central Bank’s main program held in “Diyatha Uyana” with the participation of all Lanka QR certified banks on the same day.

Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) has organized a series of awareness and promotion campaigns for popularizing Lanka QR with the participation of all Lanka QR certified financial institutions throughout the country with the aim of speeding up the customer adaptation process towards digital banking.

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Sri Lanka Insurance posts a staggering revenue of Rs. 55.2 billion during 2020



Amidst the turbulent and challenging year Sri Lanka Insurance has closed year 2020 on a positive note recording phenomenal revenue growth with exceptional service innovations.

Sri Lanka Insurance the premier insurer to the nation recorded stellar performance in 2020 to record Rs. 55.2 billion revenue for the year, a marked improvement on the Rs.48.6 billion in the year 2019, a press release said.

It adds – In the year of 2020 Sri Lanka Insurance reported 30 % growth in life insurance premium increasing to Rs.19.2 billion whilst general insurance reported 7% growth in premium grew to Rs. 20.1 billion. The company achieved a combined Gross Written Premium (GWP) growth rate of 17 % during the year. General insurance contributed 51% towards the total GWP whilst Life Insurance contributed 49 %.

‘In continuing with its tradition of leadership, Sri Lanka Insurance in 2020 surpassed its own record to declare a sum of Rs.8.2 billion as bonus to policyholders. The cumulative life insurance bonus paid out during the past 10 years tops a massive Rs.54 billion making the SLIC bonus payout unmatchable.

‘As the national insurer we have witnessed yet another challenging year and the consequences brought out by pandemic outbreak urged us to conduct our business operations in a more empathetic manner. SLIC has always taken the lead to protect the nation and during this difficult time Sri Lanka Insurance launched many initiatives to sustain country’s health defenses while ensuring our customers receive uninterrupted insurance service.

‘As the pioneering insurance company in Sri Lanka we are in the forefront to inculcate the importance of insurance to the masses as a national responsibility on our shoulders. We will further strengthen internal capabilities to serve the nation through innovative and affordable insurance solutions which cater to all Sri Lankans under the ‘Insurance for All” concept. Even though the times are defining we will continue protecting our nation turning obstacles into opportunities.’ noted .Jagath Wellawatta, chairman of SLIC.

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