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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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Dialog impacted by further forex losses in Q2, accumulated NPAT in 1H negative Rs28.3Bn



Dialog Axiata PLC announced, Tuesday 09th August 2022, its consolidated financial results for the six months ended 30th June 2022. Financial results included those of Dialog Axiata PLC (the “Company”) and of the Dialog Axiata Group (the “Group”).

Sri Lanka continued to be battered by the socio-economic crisis in Q2 2022 which led to adverse movements in macro variables such as Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) depreciating 23% against the United States Dollar (“USD”), Inflation rising to 54.6% (from 18.7% recorded by end Q1 2022), policy rates increasing by 8 percentage points and 12-month T-Bill rate increasing to 21% (from 12% recorded by end Q1 2022).

Despite the challenging environment witnessed in Q2 2022, the Group sustained its consistent performance to record strong Revenue growth across all business segments, namely, Mobile, Fixed Line, Digital Pay Television, International and Tele-infrastructure, relative to prior periods, namely, Year-to-Date (“YTD”) and Quarter-on-Quarter (“QoQ”). Accordingly, the Group recorded consolidated Revenue of Rs.81.6Bn for 1H 2022 and Rs43.3Bn for Q2 2022. However, driven by higher network spend and escalation in the cost base, Group Earnings Before Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortisation (“EBITDA”) declined to Rs27.5Bn for 1H 2022 down by a moderate 1% YTD. On a QoQ basis EBITDA declined 14% to record Rs12.7Bn for Q2 2022.

The Group Net Profit After Tax (“NPAT”) was impacted by the forex losses amid continued depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee (“LKR”) against the United States Dollar (“USD”). The resulting forex losses reached Rs.14.2Bn for Q2 2022 and Rs.34.3Bn for 1H 2022. The forex losses were predominantly contributed by market-to-market translational losses from USD denominated borrowings.

Group NPAT recorded a loss of Rs28.3Bn for 1H 2022 and a loss of Rs12.5Bn for Q2 2022 amid forex losses. Normalised for the said forex losses, NPAT continued to decline albeit recording profits of Rs6.0Bn for 1H 2022 and Rs1.6Bn for Q2 2022.

Dialog Group continued to be a significant contributor to state revenues, remitting a total of Rs16.9Bn to the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) during the first six months of 2022. Total remittances included Direct Taxes and Levies amounting to Rs9.2Bn and Rs7.7Bn in Consumption Taxes collected on behalf of the GoSL. The total taxes paid increased 46% YTD and 56% QoQ. The Direct Taxes included Rs3.8Bn paid during the quarter in lieu of one-off Surcharge Tax of 25% applicable on PAT of FY2020.

The Group continued to support critical investments in 1H 2022 to provide seamless and consistent connectivity whilst meeting the surge in data demand. Accordingly, the Capital expenditure reached Rs22.4Bn for 1H 2022. Capital expenditure was directed towards investments in High-Speed Broadband infrastructure to further expand Dialog’s leadership in Sri Lanka’s Broadband sector. In line with the above Capex, the Group Operating Free Cash Flow (“OFCF”) declined to Rs2.8Bn for 1H 2022.

During the quarter the Dialog Group entered into loan agreement of up to USD150Mn with the International Finance Corporation (“IFC”) that is expected to help expand and improve the network capacity through the upgrading of existing sites and the deployment of new 4G sites. IFC will also ensure that Dialog adopts an enhanced environmental and social management system (ESMS) according to IFC Performance Standards for their mobile network deployment, in line with Dialog’s endeavors of pursuing green connectivity, supporting global climate action goals and achieving net-zero CO2 emission by 2050.

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Emirates invests over US$ 2 billion to take its on-board customer experience to new heights



Priding itself on a brand promise of ‘Fly Better’, Emirates is investing over US$ 2 billion to enhance its inflight customer experience, including a massive programme to retrofit over 120 aircraft with the latest interiors, plus an array of other service improvements across all cabins starting in 2022.

Sir Tim Clark, President Emirates Airline said: “While others respond to industry pressures with cost cuts, Emirates is flying against the grain and investing to deliver ever better experiences to our customers. Through the pandemic we’ve continued to launch new services and initiatives to ensure our customers travel with the assurance and ease, including digital initiatives to improve customer experiences on the ground. Now we’re rolling out a series of intensive programmes to take Emirates’ signature inflight experiences to the next level.”

Some of Emirates’ latest initiatives include: elevated meal choices, a brand new vegan menu, a ‘cinema in the sky’ experience, cabin interior upgrades, sustainable choices and a generous approach to the little touches that make travel memorable.

Starting from August, Emirates’ passengers can look forward to:

New Inspirations, New Menus:  An award-winning team of chefs, a world-class catering team and a wide variety of suppliers have been assembled to design and deliver the best fine dining experience in the sky. New menus will be served on select Emirates routes in First Class, featuring dishes such as pan-fried salmon trout with moqueca sauce and creole rice, roasted duck breast with orange thyme jus, steamed broccolini and fondant potatoes. New menus will also be introduced to Business and Economy on the 1st of September.

Purposefully Vegan Choices: Emirates’ new vegan menu is carefully curated to cater to the growing numbers of customers pursuing this thoughtful lifestyle. Vegans, or anyone interested in a delicious and healthy plant-based meal, will enjoy handcrafted gourmet dishes such as pan-roasted king oyster mushrooms, flavoursome jackfruit biryani and sliced kohlrabi garnished with burnt orange. Desserts are a decadent affair with choices of chocolate truffle cake with hazelnut, pistachio and gold leaf, or green grape tart adorned with candied rose petals, vanilla custard, and berry compote glistening with yuzu pearls. Vegan dishes are available to pre-order in all cabin classes.

The Champagne and Caviar Experience: Emirates’ First Class experience, always a benchmark for service excellence, has been upped a notch in 2022. Customers can now savour unlimited portions of Persian caviar as part of the ‘dine on demand’ service, with an exquisite pairing of the world-renowned Dom Perignon vintage champagne. Emirates is the only airline with an exclusive agreement to offer the luxury brand on-board.

Cinema in the Sky: First Class customers can create a memorable movie moment on-board by ordering cinema snacks as they enjoy the 5,000 channels on Emirates’ ice inflight entertainment system. The cinema snack menu includes moreish classics such as lobster rolls, juicy sliders, edamame, and salted popcorn, and can be ordered on demand. All passengers can also curate their own ice experience before their flight, simply by browsing and pre-selecting movies or TV shows on the Emirates app, which can then be synced to ice the moment they board, maximising the seamless travel experience.

Farm to Fork – Sustainable Supply Chain: Emirates’ customers departing on flights from Dubai can begin crunching on fresh greens harvested from Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm and newly-opened US$40 million joint venture investment through Emirates Flight Catering. Emirates is continuing to invest in sustainable operations and supply chains, seeking local food suppliers and farms wherever possible to serve the freshest produce on board.

Specialised Hospitality Training for Cabin Crew: Emirates has partnered with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, one of the world’s top hospitality management schools, to craft the Emirates Hospitality strategy and encourage inspiring customer experiences. Emirates Cabin Crew have already begun engaging in intensive training programmes focused on delivering the four service pillars: Excellence, Attentiveness, Innovation and Passion.

Upgraded Cabin Interiors in all Classes: The most significant investment is an extensive and record-breaking refurbishment of the aircraft fleet interiors, where cabins will be retrofitted with new or reupholstered seats, new panelling, flooring and other cabin features. Benefitting all Emirates passengers, every cabin class will be refreshed and new Premium Economy cabins installed. After the retrofit, Emirates will have a total of 120 aircraft offering Premium Economy seats – the only airline in the region to offer this cabin class, and enhanced interiors and features across all other cabins. With its first aircraft scheduled to roll into the Emirates Engineering Centre for retrofitting in November, planning work and trials have begun in earnest.

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Janashakthi Life strengthens board with two new appointments



Janashakthi Insurance PLC, one of the key players in Sri Lanka’s insurance industry, announced the appointments of Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan and Dr. Nishan de Mel as Independent Non-Executive Directors of the organization with effect from 27th July 2022.

“We are pleased to welcome S. Renganathan and Dr. Nishan de Mel to the Board of Janashakthi Insurance PLC, as we continue to accelerate the execution of our strategic priorities to expand our presence in the Life Insurance segment,” said Prakash Schaffter, Executive Deputy Chairman of Janashakthi Insurance PLC.

“Renganathan joins us with a rich tenure of 41 years in the banking sector and extensive financial and managerial experience which will provide valuable insights as we continue to pursue our growth journey. Dr. de Mel is an economist with extensive knowledge and experience in strategic planning, that will enable our growth strategy to drive transformation through effective strategic planning. We are confident that they will provide valuable perspectives and will create a new dynamic within the Board as we continue to transform the insurance industry to better serve our customers and communities”, he concluded.

Sivakrishnarajah Renganathan is the former Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Commercial Bank of Ceylon PLC, Commercial Development Co., PLC and Deputy Chairman of Commercial Bank of Maldives. He had held several key positions in the Bank. He has led Commercial Bank’s acquisition of the banking operations of Credit Agricole Indosuez in Bangladesh. In addition, he has served among others, as a Member of the General Council of the Institute of Bankers of Bangladesh, Founder / President of the Sri Lanka Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Executive Member of the Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Bangladesh.

Renganathan, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, UK (FCMA), Fellow of the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Fellow of the London Institute of Banking & Finance, UK (FLIBF) and a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers Sri Lanka (FIB), had received extensive Leadership, Management and Banking training, both locally and overseas.

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