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

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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 Finance inks partnership with HNB Assurance

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Sri Lanka’s leading integrated financial services provider, HNB Finance PLC, has entered into an exclusive partnership with HNB Assurance PLC, making it significantly easier and faster for HNB Finance customers to obtain insurances required for most of the offerings from the company.A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed recently by the two companies enables HNB Finance customers to obtain the insurances they require for personal and other offerings from the company, without even having to leave the premises of HNB Finance. Since representatives of HNB Assurance will now be stationed at the offices of HNB Finance, the process of obtaining the necessary insurance policies will be both more convenient and faster, further enhancing the overall customer experience.

“HNB Finance constantly strives to elevate our customer experience, particularly via partnerships with reputed organisations of the calibre of HNB Assurance,” HNB Finance PLC Managing Director/CEO Chaminda Prabhath said. “This also serves as an example of the synergies and strengths that HNB Finance benefit from, by being part of one of Sri Lanka’s largest financial services conglomerates, the HNB Group.”

“We take pleasure in this partnership with another member of the HNB Group and in offering the customers of HNB Finance the highly customer-centric offering of HNB Assurance,” HNB Assurance PLC CEO Lasitha Wimalaratne said. “Superlative customer experience has always been a core pillar of our strategy and HNB Finance customers can now benefit from these capabilities.”

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Sunshine Healthcare appoints T. Sayandhan as CEO

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Sunshine Healthcare has appointed T. Sayandhan as the Chief Executive Officer of Lina Manufacturing, the pharmaceutical manufacturing segment of the diversified company. Sayandhan, currently CEO of Sunshine Medical Devices, has more than 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry. He joined Sunshine Healthcare in 2017 to spearhead Sunshine Medical Devices and has been instrumental in growing the healthcare business to be the key driver of the Group’s financial performance, helping Sunshine Healthcare to sustain its growth over the few years amidst tough macroeconomic conditions.

Commenting on the new appointment, Sunshine Healthcare Managing Director Shyam Sathasivam said, “As a responsible Sri Lankan conglomerate, we believe the local production of pharmaceuticals plays a vital role in maintaining the resilience of national healthcare systems. When escalating macroeconomic conditions are putting immense pressure on the local healthcare sector, producing pharmaceuticals locally will facilitate access to needed medicines and decrease exposure to imports and international supply chains. At this critical juncture, I believe Sayandhan has demonstrated the right combination of talent and drive to step into this key leadership role at the company.”

Commenting on his appointment, Sayandhan said, “It is a challenging yet exciting time to join Lina Manufacturing when the company is advancing its efforts to develop Sri Lankan-made, innovative healthcare solutions.”

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Mega training programme in SL in ICT related skills by Trainocate

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By Hiran H.Senewiratne

Trainocate, being Asia’s largest IT and human capability development training provider, in a bid to create demand for future ICT related employees will be commencing a mega training program in Sri Lanka targeting youth and corporates.

“With the rapid advancements in digitalization and digital services driven by AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber security and 5G, old paradigms and business models are being challenged. More organizations across sectors are now required to have an online-offline presence and operations, Trainocate’s CEO, South East Asia New Markets and the UAE Zafarullah Hashim told The Island Financial Review.

Zafarullah added: ‘According to a recent World Economic Forum report, by 2022, close to 30 per cent of new job opportunities globally will be in data, artificial intelligence (AI), engineering and cloud computing for the future Digital Economy.

‘The pace of change over the past few years has been accelerated by the diffusion of technology, speed of innovation and rapidly evolving business needs. Jobs have changed and new ones have emerged and replaced existing ones. In tandem with this, the required skills and competencies have also rapidly evolved.

‘Many South Asian countries’ corporates as well as current employees and youth aspiring for employment are not reading this.

‘With a global presence in 15 countries, Trainocate SEANM, a pioneer in delivering cutting edge training and certifications which are industry recognized, will commence helping beginners and professionals to expedite their career advancement through our centers.

‘Trainocate also works with key government and private stakeholders to ensure that beginners and professionals have access to high quality and industry-specific training that meets the demands of different sectors of the economy for an innovative and productive workforce.

‘Knowing which skills are in demand has never been more important. With evolving consumer demands and disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, we function as the bridge between vendors, such as Microsoft, AWS, Google Cloud, and the partner. We are also the bridge between the partner and customers. We do partner enablement programs for partners through the vendors and then from the partner to the customer. A partner has to commit to the vision and the goals of a vendor. You also need to have product knowledge and become certified, which is where we come in.

‘Microsoft has been our main force and we have been providing free fundamental training sessions, as we believe that primary knowledge is key in building the country’s digital transformation journey. Our business operation is carried out between business to business, business to government and business to customers as well.

‘Digital skills are increasingly transferable across different sectors, as more enterprises embark on digital transformation and technology adoption. The Digital Economy entails different types of skills, depending on their job role applications. Tech-Lite roles are job roles that involve the use of foundational digital solutions at work; while Tech-Heavy roles are specialized roles responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of more complex technological solutions and applications.

‘Trainocate SEANM focuses on developing skills, competency, ability and improving employee performances and organizational productivity. Organizations spend millions in acquiring and upgrading systems or hardware and give truly little thought to the training process. As a result, a vast majority of companies do not make maximum use of the features and benefits of the software in which they have invested. Proper training will increase productivity and reduce downtime which will complete IT projects faster.

‘Traincoate SEANM is rapidly reaching new heights by helping organizations that are going through a tough time and are in the transitioning period towards technology. Trainocate SEANM delivers well-informed and stable individuals who can provide their expertise towards the rise of these businesses. We have trained many blue-chip companies, along with their partners. Our goal is to develop individuals in tools that are already available that they don’t know how to use.

“Trainocate SEANM offers a range of resources, tools, certification and training programs and initiatives to help individuals and organizations identify and acquire the necessary skills to facilitate employment, improve job performance and adapt to job content changes in the midst of technological advancements and business operating model shifts.

‘We are not just a training company, but rather, a guidance company. We have been doing this for 25 plus years and have assessment tools that help us analyze and identify any skill gaps within organizations. We can use this to help the organizations’ HR and L&D teams streamline their training methods, as we can help identify these gaps and guide them on what they need the most.

‘Overall the company is helping organizations to think differently, plan strategically, save money and get the best out of technology. That is our secret to success.’

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