Tourism for the environmentally responsible
The stunning architecture of Kandalama Hotel has been described as Geoffrey Bawa’s ‘best expression.’ Testifying to the genius of the man, Prema Cooray recollects his first impressions of the site, “When I landed by helicopter with Geoffrey Bawa, I couldn’t imagine how you could even build a house there.”
The process of building the hotel was accompanied by unprecedented protests. “Environmentalists took us to task,” says Cooray, a former chairman of Aitken Spence. “But we managed to survive the onslaught of protests that came in from NGOs, environmentalists and even the Opposition - and built this hotel. There were more than 600 newspaper articles during that controversy.” Cooray is writing a book about his experiences with Kandalama, which is expected to be on the shelves in about a year’s time.
The Sinharaja rainforest project, of which Cooray is Chairman, is an extension of the vision to take nature tourism forward. A world class eco-lodge is being put up, which will adopt best practices in planning and construction, materials used and preservation of environment. The eco-lodge is being designed by international experts and will have a canopy walk at the treetop level. There will also be a research facility for 30 scientists.
Competitors in the tourism industry – Aitken Spence, John Keells, Jetwing and Hemas - have joined forces to invest in this venture. “USAID is chipping in with a grant of US$ 900,000 for the environmental side,” noted Cooray.