Sanath Ukwatte, Chairman of the Mount Lavinia Group was appointed as the President of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) for the year 2016/17 at the 51st Annual General Meeting.
The newly appointed President, emphasized the importance of the hotel sector in the tourism industry, contributing over 64% of the total foreign exchange earnings in the industry.
He stressed on the point of not having any further increases in government taxes and levy's at this juncture as it is critical that the hotel sector remain competitive in the market place and be able to reinvest the earnings for further improvement of hotels.
Whilst welcoming the growth in the informal sector, he emphasized the necessity to get the informal sector in to the mainstream by regularizing this sector. The entire industry should be one.
Ukwatte paid glowing tribute to SLITO and DMC's for their role in promoting the destination and helping hoteliers to drive occupancy he appealed THASL to "take meaningful steps to protect the local DMC's against ever increasing online tour operators and other digital platforms which directly canvass business for hotels"
Substantial number of new rooms are due to be opened over the next two years. Ukwatte spoke of the present crisis of not having sufficient skilled staff to cater to the expected number of new rooms / hotels to enter the country in the next few years. The need to urgently look at stepping up training across the island was one of the highlights of his speech. He was emphatic that the present level of training is not sufficient to fulfill the future requirements of this industry.
He quoted the success of the much debated minimum rate for Colombo Hotels, where hotel stakeholders, be it owners, operators, employees have benefited immensely due to the minimum rate over the past years.