By Steve A. Morrell
The Hilton Double Tree, at Weerawila, a Rajawarna Resort, was a stunning revelation to a traveler. Not was, but is, one of incredible natural beauty.
That too, after the hustle and bustle of the city, you travel on the Galle highway, on to Hambantota, and about an hour later, travelling on asphalt smoothness you arrive at the Hilton Double Tree. If one could call it that, it was a revelation of a well placed hotel, that an international brand like the Hilton would manage a guest holding quite as luxurious as the Double Tree.
Although opening of the hotel was as recent as November 2020, we noted the hotel guest list was such that the hotel was at least 90 percent occupied. A big plus for the reputation of the Hilton, more so, its fame for good visitor attention was an added incentive that local tourism was a dynamic message that covid 19, although a serious restrictive influence, alternatives were in place to also encourage internal travel.
At the convened press conference, at Double Tree, General Manager, Krishanta Damunupola, Cluster Commercial Director, Hilton Hotels Sri Lanka, Chris Zappia, were present. Also from the Colombo Hilton, Gigi De Silva, Sanoj Perera, with Thushari and Anish Subhedar.
Chris Zappia, said the Weerawila, Double Tree Hilton, was the first of 607 Double Tree hotels to function in the face of restrictive influence of the covid pandemic. With the Mattala Air Port attaining functionality and expected passenger traffic would increase, the Hotel would be a viable option to both foreign and local tourists. His enthusiastic remarks on the natural beauty of Sri Lanka, including wild life, eco tourism, he said the island had so much to offer that could lure tourists. He agreed the Maldives was better known in the US, attributed to better publicity, than Sri Lanka. He also agreed Sri Lanka had more to offer, and would not be long before the tourist trade would increase.
General Manager Krishanta Damunupola said the Hilton Double Tree is in trend with greenness and an environment of tranquility which is in line with what the hotel offers. The 95 room and its wide space stretched out to a full kilometer in length, which was a concept for peace with salutary amenities that ensured visitor comfort and more in relationship with nature.
We experienced the nature trip to Bundala, a short drive from the hotel; which proved the essence of the relationship with nature was an on-going experience. Bird life, mainly, was an irresistible trip, and more so the guide, who was also the driver of the modified 4 wheel drive, was well versed with the sights and the profusion of bird life.
Although we did not see them, elephant presence was also noticed.
Manager Damunupola said the future of the travel industry was good. Particularly that the Double Tree and its nature concept is in line with the international ‘green lobby’, was an appealing concept for tourism. The Hilton Brand, usually in line with urban stays, completely turned round with the Double Tree concept. Particularly its surrounding atmosphere of salubrious surroundings.
Cabraal comments on exchange rate flexibility
Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal, twice Central Bank Governor and former State Minister for Finance, issued the following media statement last week on exchange rate flexibility.
“The decision to allow the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR) to be “flexible” from March 7, 2022 onwards is sometimes described by certain persons as being a “unilateral” decision of then Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Therefore, this statement is to provide the factual position so as to set the record straight.”The decision to allow flexibility in the exchange rate was taken by the Monetary Board of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka based on a Monetary Board Paper dated March 7, 2022 submitted by all three Deputy Governors (Mr Mahinda Siriwardene, Mr Dammika Nanayakkara & Mrs Yvette Fernando), Director – Economic Research Department and Director – International Operations Department.
“The Board Paper stressed the need for changing the exchange rate policy immediately in order that the exchange rate acts as a “shock absorber” in the face of adverse developments in the global front on Sri Lanka’s already fragile Balance of Payments, including the increase of the crude oil price to nearly USD 140 per barrel and the worsening Russia-Ukraine war.
“Based on that Board Paper and the discussion at the meeting, the Monetary Board decided to ‘allow the market to have a greater flexibility in the exchange rate with immediate effect and communicate that the Central Bank is of the view that forex transactions would take place at levels which are not more than Rs. 230 per US dollar.’
“From the above it will be clear that, while the Monetary Board had expressed its ‘view’ as to the level at which forex transactions would take place as a market guidance, a clear decision had been taken to allow for the flexibility of the LKR in the forex market. On the same day, a statement was issued to the media in line with the above decision.
“Further, within about a week of floating the LKR, the President made a formal announcement that the government had initiated discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a programme.
“Subsequently, Governor Cabraal resigned on April 4, 2022, on which day, the LKR was trading at Rs. 289.73/299.99 per USD in accordance with the new ‘flexible’ exchange rate policy as announced by the Monetary Board. After Governor Cabraal’s exit, the Monetary Board chaired by the new Governor Dr. Weerasinghe continued with the ‘flexible’ exchange rate policy, whist the Government and CBSL also took a series of far reaching decisions which included the decisions to: sharply increase policy interest rates by 700 bps from April 8, 2022 onwards, and to discontinue repayments of forex loans and interest from April 12, 2022 onwards.
“In the meantime, the LKR continued to depreciate to a range of Rs. 364.23/377.50 against the USD by May 12, 2022, at which point, the Monetary Board had apparently once again decided to ‘fix’ the exchange rate at a new range between Rs.355.00/Rs.365.00 per USD. Such move to ‘fix’ the exchange rate seems quite similar to the policy adopted by the Monetary Board chaired by Governor Professor W D Lakshman which ‘fixed’ the LKR exchange rate at a range of Rs.199.00/203.00 per USD from September 6, 2021 onwards.
“It must of course be understood that there will always be conflicting opinions among stakeholders as to the value, timing and methodology to be followed in ‘fixing’, or ‘floating’ or ‘pegging’ a country’s currency. It is also quite possible that after decisions are taken to ‘float,’ ‘fix’ or ‘peg’ the currency, others could, claim that the decision was right or wrong or implemented differently.
“However, it must be appreciated that the decision-making authority has to take its decision based on the prevailing circumstances, expert advice, practical ground conditions, judgment of future expectations and outcomes, etc. when viewed holistically. That is obviously why the Monetary Law Act provides the authority to the Monetary Board to change financial and monetary sector policies (including the exchange rate policy, interest rates, statutory reserve ratios, etc) when it deems appropriate to do so, from time to time.
“It must also be appreciated that the implementation of policy measures is carried out by the professional and technical staff, of the Central Bank and they would naturally ensure that the policy measures being implemented are based on legal and binding decisions of the Monetary Board, which is the decision making authority, and not based on ‘unilateral’ decisions of a single person.”
Cathay Pacific releases its 2021 Sustainability Report
The Cathay Pacific Group has released its comprehensive annual Sustainable Development Report that addresses its commitment and progress in the areas of environmental, social and governance, which are of great importance to its stakeholders, and towards its goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Regional General Manager, South Asia Middle East and Africa (SAMEA), Rakesh Raicar said: “We continue to ramp up our efforts to fight climate change and have made specific tangible progress towards supporting and prioritizing our sustainability issues which are communicated in our 2021 Sustainable Development Report. This includes supporting our communities in India by transporting essential aid during this global health crisis, and making new commitments towards the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in our operations. We are certain, together with our partners and customers, we will continue to positively contribute to the environment and communities, and also connect Hong Kong to the world in sustainable ways as recovery accelerates.”
Some highlights from the 2021 report include:
• Helping to deliver vaccinations around the world: We raced against time to develop a dedicated Vaccine Solution to make COVID-19 vaccines available to global communities. In 2021, over 165 million vaccine doses along with other essential medical supplies were delivered to Hong Kong and beyond by our airlines.
• Making progress towards carbon neutrality: We became one of the first airlines in Asia to target 10% SAF use by 2030 and have committed to purchasing more than 350 million gallons of SAF beginning from 2024 alongside our Oneworld Alliance peers. We also co-founded the Aviation Climate Taskforce, an industry platform through which we will accelerate the development of breakthrough technologies that will help drive the decarbonisation of civil aviation. We also developed Asia’s first major Corporate SAF Program in 2021, which came to fruition in April this year with the launch of its pilot phase, bringing SAF into Hong Kong International Airport for uplift for the very first time.
Strong commitment to diversity: We have pledged to increase female representation at senior positions by 25% – reaching 30% in total – by 2025. To drive changes, a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Steering Committee and a dedicated team were set up in 2021.
TDL Logistics bags Bronze at National Logistics Awards
TDL Logistics Pvt. Ltd. won the Bronze Award in the Freight Forwarders and Logistics Category at the National Logistics Awards. TDL Logistics Pvt. Ltd. was established in October 2010 by Tony De Livera, along with a group of professionals in freight forwarding and logistics. TDLL has since established itself as a premier, service-oriented, international freight and logistics company with a special emphasis on the wearing apparel industry worldwide. The organisation is poised for exciting developments, such as enhancement of their network coverage, internationalization of the business and the formulation of strategic partnerships, with their prime expectation being to have rapid growth, with a strong agency network globally.
“This award further reflects the confidence of our customers in the quality of our services. I would say this is a collective achievement of our Company’s most dedicated employees at all levels. Winning an award at the first ever National Logistics Awards Ceremony is a great honour and a source of pride for me. Especially during these challenging times. As a result, I would like to thank SLFFA and fellow members for their continuous encouragement and support shown to our group and the TDLL Team, and I owe a very special thank you to all our colleagues for their hard-work and dedication over the years, that enabled us to win this award,” said Chairman of the Company Tony de Livera.
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