Financial Times

Aitken Spence gung-ho on hotel expansion

Aitken Spence Holdings PLC is on a mega hotel expansion drive both in Sri Lanka and in other markets, according to company officials. “We are trying to develop our 105-acre beach frontage land in Nilaveli and we are considering various possibilities with this property,” Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director Aitken Spence Hotel Management (Pvt) Ltd told the Sunday Times FT.

He said this property has 2 km of beach land which is ideal for a luxury hotel and they have not ruled out the possibility to develop it with prospective foreign partners. He said that the nearly 11-acre plot near Heritance Ahungalla will also be developed soon, adding that the company is also negotiating to purchase a property in Jaffna town. “We are not hunting for a large property like Nilaveli here, but a substantial property of about six acres,” he said.

S. Yogarajasingham, CEO Chamber of Commerce and Industries of Yarlpanam (Jaffna) told the Sunday Times FT that the biggest issue is that there are no ‘big’ lands for sale in Jaffna. “Last week some Aitken Spence officials were looking for a land to put up a hotel in the city,” he said, adding that they called him to inquire about it. “They wanted about five to six acres in the city to build a hotel or a rest house as there is an unprecedented demand for these in the Jaffna peninsula.”

Mr. Hapugoda said that Aitken Spence is currently in discussion with Six Senses Resorts & Spas (which is a resort and spa management and development company with properties in six countries including Maldives, Thailand, Vietnam, Oman, Jordan, and Spain) to develop the island they own in Ahungalla.
“It is a 27-acre island situated in Madhu River. We have revived talks with Six Senses to build eco-friendly luxurious villas in this island,” he added.

He also said the company is contemplating to brand Tea Factory as Heritance Kandapola (as it is situated at Kandapola). He said that Aitken Spence will invest more in Indian properties. “We own eight hotels here, three (management and part equity) in India and five are managed in Oman,” he said, adding that the company has plans to go to Cochin, Qatar and Dubai by next year. “We are planning to manage the hotels in these places,” he said. He said their fifth hotel in Oman, Desert Nights Camp was opened this month.

He said the company has tied up with an Indian partner to build a luxury floating villa type hotel in Cochin. “The construction is going on at the moment and we will open the hotel in November 2011,” he said.

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