World-class, $300m "ITC One, Colombo 1" to open in 2021

Top Indian hotel chain adding a jewel to Lanka’s hospitality sector


Workmen busy on site

by S Venkat Narayan
Our Special Correspondent

Thirty-five metres below the surface, the foundation for a world-class hotel-cum-luxury residences complex is nearing completion on a sprawling plot of land facing the bustling Galle Face Center Road in Colombo between the Indian Ocean and the Beira Lake. By end-June, 500 to 1,000 people will be engaged in two shifts in building basements.

The $300-million (LKR 42.85-billion) state-of-the-art hotel and luxury apartment complex is being built by WelcomHotels Lanka Private Limited, a 100% subsidiary of ITC Limited, the 106-year-old premier Indian multi-business enterprise with over 40 years experience in the hospitality sector.

The fifth largest company in India according to market capitalisation ($45 billion), ITC Limited employs about 26,000 in India and has an annual revenue of $7.5 billion. The Colombo project is ITC Limited’s maiden overseas foray in the hospitality sector in Sri Lanka and is perhaps the single largest private sector investment in the island from India to date. ITC has been ranked amongst the top 10 sustainable value creators in the consumer goods segment globally by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The landmark project includes a signature super-premium hotel —-ITC One, Colombo 1—-with about 350 rooms on 25 floors in the first phase, more than 130 luxury residences on 50 floors comprising master penthouses, penthouses, four, three and two-bedroom apartments, world-class banqueting and cuisine experiences, as well as premium retail and serviced office spaces.

Part of ITC Limited, ITC Hotels group is the second largest chain in India, and enjoys the reputation of being the greenest hotel chain in the world. It owns and manages more than a 100 hotels in over 70 destinations with a capacity of 10,000 rooms. The group is building 40 more hotels with a 4,000-room capacity in 10 cities across the country. In India, with the enduring "Namaste" as the symbol of its brand experience, the chain has been offering unique, indigenous, exceptional experiences to guests since 1975, when its first hotel came up in Chennai, abiding by its guiding premise of responsible luxury.

The ambitious project in Colombo is engaging some of the best organizations to create a world-class mixed-use luxury development complex. The idea of the complex was first mooted to the Sri Lankan Government in 2011. And it will be thrown open in 2021.

When the ITC One, Colombo 1 mixed-use complex becomes operational by 2021, it will generate direct employment for around 800 people and indirect employment for another 400 people in its various components. These jobs will cover around 20% white collar professionals and 80% skilled and unskilled blue collar.

Says Y C Deveshwar, Chairman of India’s fifth largest company according to its market capitalisation: "India and Sri Lanka have shared a common heritage in the sub-continent and have generations of rich socio-cultural ties. ITC One, Colombo 1 will build on this heritage and strengthen our relations even further. ITC dedicates this project to Sri Lanka and to its future progress and prosperity. I am sure that this landmark hotel complex will add a jewel to the crown of Sri Lanka’s hospitality sector."

The chain’s Executive Director Nakul Anand adds: "ITC Hotels has spearheaded extensive skill development programmes for the hospitality sector through its dedicated Hotel Management Institute at Manesar near Gurgaon in India’s Haryana state. ITC’s project in Sri Lanka will leverage this institutional strength and contribute significantly to enhancing the skills of local human resources. This will create new avenues for employment of the Sri Lankan workforce."

WelcomHotels Lanka Private Limited was incorporated in Sri Lanka in April 2012, and the company entered into an agreement in May 2012 with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka for taking the 5.86-acre plot on a 99- year lease with a provision for transfer of freehold rights on a proportionate undivided share basis for the residential condominium in favour of apartment buyers.

The project was accorded a Strategic Development Project status by the Parliament of Sri Lanka in January 2013. Immediately after Parliamentary approval, an architectural competition was held among various world renowned architects, and Gensler of Los Angeles was shortlisted. Thereafter, other technical consultants were tied up and design development for the building taken up in detail.

This also included an approach to excavation, shoring and piling which is new to Sri Lanka. The company was keen that, as far as possible, local engineering companies should be engaged and Access Engineering got short-listed for shoring works of the project. The ground breaking ceremony was held in November 2014.

After the competition, M/s Gensler from Los Angeles were appointed as the main conceptual design architects. Their work is complemented by other great specialist firms who are global leaders—-Thornton Tomasetti for structural design, Burega Farnell for landscaping, Design Wilkes and Yoo inspired by Phillipe Starck for interior designs etc—-thus bringing to Sri Lanka a truly world class offering.

The project comprises two high-rise towers rising above a podium which will be connected by a sky bridge beyond the 18th floor. While the hotel will have 25 floors, the residential complex will have 50 floors.

The project is set to become a major international landmark in Colombo and a symbol of Sri Lanka’s economic resurgence. Sri Lanka’s own architecture firm Surath Wickramasinghe Associates is anchoring the entire effort and adds to the galaxy coming together to deliver this flagship project.

To get completed on time, the project requires significant inputs on technology, materials and inputs, knowledge-based design and skilled execution services backed by a lot of human effort. For example, the ITC One, Colombo 1 project has already introduced technological innovation to Sri Lanka with the use of a diaphragm wall and soil nail anchoring for shoring prior to deep excavation to provide an elegant and superior solution to safely build tall buildings while keeping neighboring areas secure.

This new technology has been introduced through Sri Lanka’s Access Engineering, leading to a long term improvement in local capability. Over the entire project, a number of other innovations will get introduced similarly.

Despite the challenge of being located between the ocean and the Beira Lake requiring an elaborate dewatering system to enable excavation for basements, the project design provides multiple basements for underground parking to accommodate a thousand vehicles to maintain pristine landscape and to ease vehicular pressure on Galle Face Road.

Efficient execution of such a project requires a substantial amount of time to be spent in planning and developing the engineering designs with multi-disciplinary coordination for the development as well as the preparatory work (excavation, shoring and piling) for commencing the civil and structure works. This is substantially over by now.

Uniquely differentiated with superior environmental design, the hotel is slated to achieve a LEED Platinum rating. This echoes ITC’s Triple Bottom line approach to business which has inspired ITC Hotels’ credo of ‘Responsible Luxury’, an endeavour which is manifest in the highest rating accorded to green buildings in the world—- LEED Platinum—-for all its luxury hotels –making the group the ‘greenest luxury hotel chain in the world’.

ITC One, Colombo 1 is set to become a vibrant symbol of Sir Lanka’s resurgent economic growth, with the interiors reflecting Sri Lanka’s heritage. This landmark project will make a meaningful contribution to the island’s national economic development while enriching the country’s tourism landscape.

Says Nakul Anand, ITC Hotel’s Executive Director: "ITC Hotels has spearheaded extensive skill development programmes for the hospitality sector through its dedicated Hotel Management Institute at Manesar near Gurgaon in India’s Haryana state. ITC’s project in Sri Lanka will leverage this institutional strength and contribute significantly to enhancing the skills of local human resources. This will create new avenues for employment of the Sri Lankan workforce."

Over the years, the tourism industry has been a significant contributor to Sri Lanka’s economic development. Travel and tourism contributed LKR 1,067.4bn to Sri Lanka’s GDP in 2014, and is projected to rise to LKR 1,979.2 bn in 2025—-an increase of over 6% per annum.

In 2014, every tenth working Sri Lankan was employed in the travel and tourism sector. By 2025, the sector will provide jobs to 943,000 people—-an increase of 11.1%.

Tourism has always formed an important link between India and Sri Lanka. India sends the largest number of tourists to the island nation: over 315,000 last year. Given the tourism potential in Sri Lanka, significant opportunities exist in enhancing mutually beneficial collaborations between the two countries. Colombo is a very convenient destination from most Indian metro cities with a number of short duration flights. Better connectivity will undoubtedly open up latent source markets to bring in more tourism revenues.

"The ITC One, Colombo 1 is a very exciting development, creating an international icon for Colombo, offering the best international quality in hospitality and residences," says Arun Pathak, Managing Director, WelcomHotels Lanka Private Limited. "It truly represents the splendour of gracious living. It is set to be an employment-multiplier and will undoubtedly become a vibrant symbol of Sri Lanka’s resurgent economic growth," he adds.

ITC Limited’s businesses supports around six million sustainable livelihoods. Its Chairman Deveshwar was ranked the seventh best performing CEO in the world by the Harvard Business Review. In 2014, ITC was ranked as India’s Most Admired Company by Fortune India Magazine with Hay Group.

Given its rich expertise in offering unique indigenous experiences and in depth knowledge of the tourism sector in the sub-continent, ITC’s project promises to be an embodiment of rich cultural heritage of Sri Lanka. The success of such projects will go a long way in attracting further investments into Sri Lanka from across the world, thereby making it a preferred investment destination in the South and South East Asian region.

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