Sri Lankan hoteliers should strive for top positions overseas– Veteran hotelier


Veteran hospitality industry expert Roshan Fernando said that Sri Lankan hoteliers have the capacity, capability and the necessary qualifications but most of them find it difficult to fit into the position of General Manager in a top hotel overseas due to the fact they lack International hotel brand experience which is sine-qua-non.

He said most of our hoteliers were as good as the world’s best, but they need to gain more brand experience.

"Our hoteliers should strive to fill the top positions in the best overseas brands in order to gain the much needed experience," the veteran said.

Fernando, a graduate of the Ceylon Hotel School (CHS) and a past President of the Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association (CHSGA) is now the General Manager of five star luxury boutique property, Hotel Tugu Lombok in Indonesia.

Fernando said it was sad to see that some the local brands and owners prefer to employ expatriates as General Managers and to other senior positions for very high salary packages when there were many suitable and qualified Sri Lankans with proven track records in the industry willing to serve the motherland.

"I do not see much logic in this kind of thinking other than the individual preferences and the so called prestige, having a foreigner at the top.

The veteran hotelier said " Learning of different cultures and working with them has been a great experience to me and I firmly believe that other Sri Lankan hoteliers also should strive to fill top positions in the international and top brands overseas as it provides them invaluable experience."

Fernando is of the opinion that if Sri Lanka is to achieve the target of 2.5 million tourists by 2016, it must develop a sound marketing strategy like in Bali.

He said that three million tourists throng to the this small Indonesian island annually.

We should lay emphasis on countries like China, Japan, Korea, Taivan and even Malaysia and Singapore while concentrating on the Europen market, he added.

"Sri Lanka should get more international chain hotels to invest here as a country cannot be marketed strategically to high - end tourists with only Sri Lankan brand hotels, although most of our hotels are of international standards. New markets would prefer and would be comfortable to work with branded hotels initially rather than working with hotels of our own," he said adding that he doesn’t discriminate the Sri Lankan hotels at all, but reality stands.

Bali, which is a well planned tourist enclave has become a great destination of its own apart from the country Indonesia.

He said, as the growth of Bali’s tourist industry expanded, along with congestion of all kinds, Lombok is fast approaching a better alternative of those picture perfect sunsets.

"Those promoting Sri Lanka as a destination should take a leaf from their counterparts in Bali and Lombok and promote the island Sri Lanka as a top destination in South Asia. With the dawn of peace in the country our bureaucrats must capitalise on that and take the country’s tourism industry to new heights. Sri Lanka was not alone, Bali suffered two massive bombings in 2002 and 2005 and came back with a vengeance and today the small island is overflowing with tourists," he pointed out.

Prior to moving to Lombok, Roshan was the General Manager of the five star 350 room Sun Spa Resort in Central Vietnam from 2010-2012.He was the group General Manager of Amara Resorts overlooking four hotels in Vietnam from 2009-2010. Prior to that he functioned as General Manager of five star Amara Sanctuary Resort, Sentosa, Singapore from 2008-2009. He also worked as General Manager, Amara Hotel, Saigon, a 300 room hotel from 2007-2008.

Fernando was the Director Operations of Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings in Colombo and prior to that served as the General Manager of Triton Hotel, Ahungalle now Heritance Ahungalla. His younger brother Suresh has followed his footsteps and is also a leading hotelier.

Fernando assumed duties as the General Manager of Hotel Tugu Lombok recently.

The veteran hotelier has made his mark in South East Asia and proved his mettle as one of the finest hospitality industry personnel produced by Sri Lanka .

His popularity, efficient management and excellent public relations have paved the way for many other Sri Lankan hoteliers to gain employment in many top hotels in the region.

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