The only Sri Lankan General Manager operating in eastern Ontario By Michelle Tissera In picturesque Brockville, known as The City of The 1000 Islands, Nishan De Silva is making waves in the tourism and hospitality industry. He holds the distinct privilege of being the only Sri Lankan born general manager operating and managing a hotel [...]

Sunday Times 2

Mr. Hospitality : Nishan De Silva


The only Sri Lankan General Manager operating in eastern Ontario
By Michelle Tissera
In picturesque Brockville, known as The City of The 1000 Islands, Nishan De Silva is making waves in the tourism and hospitality industry. He holds the distinct privilege of being the only Sri Lankan born general manager operating and managing a hotel in Eastern Ontario.

Nishan De Silva

Having amassed over 27 years of global experience in hotel operations and management, Nishan has earned the accolades of the industry by winning the coveted ‘Business of the Year’ awards in both, the town of Renfrew and at the Super 8, a newly-renovated modern budget hotel in Brockville. Goal oriented and with a burning desire to excel, his keen diligence and eye for detail also won the hotel, the 2015 TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence award.

Nishan was born to Carl and Ranjani De Silva in Negombo, Sri Lanka. One of nine children, he has five brothers and four sisters. His father enjoyed quite a distinguished career himself, having worked in the prestigious Royal Air Force for 14 years in the United Kingdom before venturing into the hotel industry where he was appointed general manager at the Taj in Colombo.
As his children grew up and mulled over their career options, Carl offered them a choice – either follow in his footsteps and join the forces, or opt for another field. In Nishan’s case, the decision to foray into the world of hospitality management was a no-brainer and he joined the Taj in Colombo. A quick learner, he set about learning the ropes of the business and also worked in the front office at the Browns Beach Hotel in Negombo, Sri Lanka.

Attended Lausanne Hotel School
Nishan was 20 years old when he decided to leave Sri Lanka. He went to Switzerland in 1989 where he joined the world famous Lausanne Hotel School. In 1991, he headed to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and worked at the Jebel Ali Hotel for 10 years, handling operations as the front office manager. His hard work paid off and he rose to the position of rooms division manager where he managed over 300 staff.

With an insatiable desire to learn more about the industry, Nishan then joined a hotel consulting company in Dubai that specialized in opening and training staff. He was responsible for looking after new hotels in the Far East sector that included Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. He worked at the JW Marriott in Kuala Lumpur in 1996 and also at the Mandarin Oriental Manila for six months.

Joined the London Hilton on Park Lane
He returned to Dubai and spent another four years at the Jebel Ali Hotel. Wanting to move on to greener pastures, Nishan left Dubai for good and joined the London Hilton on Park Lane in England. He worked there in front office operations for a year before leaving for Canada. After arriving in Toronto in 2001, he decided to move to Vancouver in British Columbia where he joined the Vancouver Starwood Hotel for over a year as their operations manager.

He was then transferred to the Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Lakeshore, where he worked as the rooms division manager for five years. The company expanded and Nishan joined the Novotel, at the time a newly built hotel in the busy Toronto airport area as the rooms division manager. He worked there for two years before deciding that he was ready to settle down and start a family.
Nishan married his charming wife, Rozanne in 2007. They moved to Brockville, Ontario where he joined the Best Western International as the general manager. Always up for a challenge, he ventured into property management and was responsible for handling a few hotels in Gananoque before turning his attention to Renfrew, Ontario and taking on the management of three other major properties there.

In 2010, Nishan and Rozanne decided to return to Brockville where their son, Shewan was born. The hotel underwent major upgrades and renovations and was rebranded to the Wyndham Group, now called the Super 8. Located on the banks of the idyllic St. Lawrence River, it is a place that Nishan and his family call home. Well known, liked and respected by locals and visitors alike, Nishan runs a tight ship with his group of warm, super-efficient and friendly staff.

His list of achievements does grow longer by the day. Brockville Tourism approached him as a consultant for planning and advice. Prior to that honour, he also served for two years on the Board of Directors for Ottawa Valley Tourism and was also on the Board of Directors for Renfrew Chamber of Commerce.

The indefatigable Nishan De Silva is a man with an inherent knack for connecting with people. Customer service is his priority and that is evident in his handling of patrons which run the gamut from amiable to difficult.

Avid cricket enthusiast
Striking the perfect work-life balance, Nishan is an avid cricket enthusiast and a pro golfer. A great cook, he can truly boast of an amazing repertoire of mouth-watering dishes. Rozanne, on the other hand, is a professional beautician who trained under Sri Lanka’s famous Bernie Balasuriya. She is currently in a partnership working for a high-end salon in the downtown core of Brockville.

Meanwhile, Nishan manages other lucrative business ventures in the Middle East and Sri Lanka. He is the operations manager for his travel agency, Island Desert Adventures targeting tourists from North and Latin America and those travelling towards Asia and the Middle East.

When asked about his future plans, Nishan said: “Having achieved most of my goals, I would like to move forward in partnership with another party with the hope of eventually building and owning a boutique hotel in down south Sri Lanka.”

The pet friendly Super 8 Brockville has 57 rooms and is highly rated. Conveniently located between Toronto and Ottawa, it offers the ideal stop over, perfect for great boating and wreck-diving. Plenty of amenities such as the free continental breakfast will get you off on to a great start. Free Wi-Fi Internet throughout the hotel lets you stay connected. Business folks can stay productive in the business center and meeting rooms. The seasonal heated outdoor pool offers great relaxation. The hotel also has ample parking for all vehicles including RVs. Guest rooms feature flat-screen TV’s, microwaves and refrigerators.

Veritable power house
With plenty to see and do, get your spook on and walk the same halls as royalty once did with a visit to Fulford Place (now a national historic site). Find out if there really is something about Mary (Fulford) who is supposed to haunt the house as legend has it. The downtown core is abuzz on weekends with a bustling farmers market selling international goodies and street foods from India to Syria among others.

History buffs will appreciate the numerous heritage sites and Canada’s first railway tunnel. The waterfront parks are stunningly landscaped and add to the charm of a city ideal for a relaxing get-away. We concluded this interview and Nishan was off like a rocket to tend to another pressing matter at hand.

Kudos to this successful hotelier – he seems to have it all figured out. With energy levels that seem to surpass that of an energizer bunny, he is a pretty tough act to follow in the competitive field of hospitality. According to a hotel school, ‘An awesome hotelier, it is said, must be a diplomat, a democrat, an autocrat, an acrobat, and a doormat’.

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