\ The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka | Rising Star Awards 2017

Welcome speech by President Sanath Ukwatte

Rising star press conference held on 21-06-2017

Mr. Sanath Ukwatte

Chairman – Mount Lavinia Hotel Group, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Good Evening!

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, my fellow members of the Executive committee and members of the Head Table, Industry colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of the Tourist hotels association of Sri Lanka which is commonly known as THASL I would like to warmly welcome you to the Press conference convened today to announce our associations first ever mega competition and awards ceremony THASL Awards titled Rising stars of hospitality 2017.

There are two objectives for organizing this competition. The first is to recognize and reward outstanding employees in the hospitality sector and the second is to incite interest in the country’s youth to join the industry.

Today, the country has 22,000 star class hotel rooms in the formal sector and is expected to grow by a further 6500 rooms by 2020.

More importantly and perhaps less known to the country is the massive investment made by the private sector in the country's hotel industry and the contribution the sector has made to drive the national economy.

As of today the total investment is over US$ 3 billion. It is expected to further increase by US$ 1.5 billion by 2020. This means in Sri Lankan rupees 700 billion. This by far the highest investment any single sector have made in the country.

In addition, the net earnings from tourist arrivals have now exceeded US$ 3.5 billion and unlike other export industries the money earned remains in the country. So tourism is a win/win industry for the country as it not only generates large direct and indirect employment it also attracts large investment to stimulate the economy and helps the country to earn much needed foreign exchange.

It is unfortunate that most people in the Public sector, the decision makers and public at large are unaware of the huge benefits the hotel industry makes to the national economy and community at large. Apart from 300,000 direct employment, the indirect employment the industry creates from fish supplier to various other suppliers to hotels, to farmers, to construction industry, to the entertainment industry to wedding and event planners, to gem and Jewelry industry.. the list can go on and on until tomorrow morning but the point I am trying to make here the indirect employment of tourism is estimated to be over 1.5 million with a huge trickledown effect which has a massive impact on every strata of society.

Basically our industry is all to do with people and hoteliers have to be very resourceful in dealing with people. Whether it's an employee or a guest we have to be flexible and change our product to suit today's life styles.

With so many new hotels coming into the market, the time has come for us to build the next generation of hoteliers.

Whilst there are many issues faced by the industry such as increase in taxes, high cost of operations and increased inventory with no proper plan to drive demand, THASL has taken the initiative to address an issue which comes directly within our purview.

For the year 2017/18 we have taken a decision to address the issue of human resource development as one of our key initiatives.

Currently we are short of skilled labor to meet the opportunities that exist in the industry and with so many new hotels in the pipeline, we are of the view that this problem is going to get worse.

We are faced with a challenge in attracting youth be it male or female, to join the industry to make it their lifetime career. As you know we are the only industry which distributes 10% of revenue among the workforce in addition to their salaries and provides free meals to all employees with highly desirable work spaces compared to most other industries.

Working in a hotel one has the opportunity of meeting people from all over the world. It's a fun industry to be associated with.

But with all these attractive attributes today's youth are unaware of the true potential in the hotel sector.

We have young stars who have been bold enough to join the industry and who have done extremely well in their careers. You will be able to listen to one of them later on.

For the first time in of our industry we have decided to identify and give due recognition to these young stars in our industry.

THASL Rising Stars Award is an idea born out of that thinking and the entire industry is excited and looking forward to this grand event which is scheduled to take place on the 24th of October at the BMICH.

So, whilst thanking you for coming to today's press briefing to help bring the announcement of THASL 2017 Awards to the public at large on behalf of everyone at THASL I would also like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you for the Chairman Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management, Director/CEO of the BMICH and the Chairman of the THASL Awards Criteria Committee Mr Sunil Dissanayake and the Board of Judges who have contributed in an enthusiastic and professional manner to ensure that the selective and judging process are of the highest standard.

We look forward to this event and greater success of the THASL Awards in the years to come.

Thank you!