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He is the perfect gentleman hotelier. Dressed neatly in a light maroon striped shirt with a matching tie, sporting a broad friendly smile Durairajah Prithiviraj is the Pegasus Reef Hotels General Manager. The Pegasus is perhaps the matriarch of the countrys resort hotels built way back in 1971. With aplomb and friendliness he manages one hundred and fifty rooms, the guests who occupy them and a staff of 224.
Living amidst the luxury of this hotel with its tantalising food, believe it or not, he eats just one meal a day ! "For the last 25 years this has been my daily habit. I only take a nice hot cup of tea for both breakfast and in the evening.
"I reside here with my wife and so I am up at 6.30 in the morning, before those who occupy the hotel emerge. I have my cup of hot tea, no breakfast, read the newspapers and I am ready for work.
"By 7.45 am, I start doing the rounds of the hotel. I must see for myself that even what may be considered an unimportant detail is just right as far as I am concerned. I go to the breakfast room and greet both my guests and the staff.
"Next, I go to the kitchen. Yes I do, though you look surprised. I must see the kitchen and talk to the staff, the Executive chef and the other chefs." We saw all of them dressed smartly in long coats and high paper caps with a pleated effect. "These caps are most hygienic" Prithiviraj explained.
"We do not discuss menus on a daily basis, because we plan menus for six month periods. Of course, all menus then do come to me for my approval. Everyday any new ideas by the staff are discussed right here in my office and we also consider expenses and costs.
"Every morning there is a briefing when managers of the different sections come to my office to go over any problems of the previous day and act to solve them and also look carefully at the comments from guests. This most certainly gives us a sense of direction and just how to correct any shortcomings. At these conferences we plan daily a lot of business strategies, as well.
"My worries? I dont have any worries as such except, of course, challenges of making the hotel one of the best, if not the best. The only thing that always nags us on a daily basis is whether the tourist flow would continue. There are certain times in the year when all my 150 rooms are occupied. That is the hoteliers dream - to have a full house."
Pegasus is a well maintained hotel and Prithiviraj showed us the two main banquet halls. One is named Shobena and the other Ruwanwara, with pale cream drapes and maroon carpeting, chandeliers and well groomed gardens beyond the windows. These halls are used for conferences and seminars as well.
Our abstemious hotelier drinks a cup of tea in the evening and then visits the gym. The rest of the evening he spends with guests or keeping an eye on his domain. "I leave the hotel only for short intervals to go to town and to attend functions I have to."
"I confess I look forward to dinner, my only and favourite meal of the day. I like eating Sri Lankan food but we do have both Indian food such as thosai and idili and of course western dishes. It gives our guests a chance to eat food with an international flavour."
Prithiviraj has managed Pegasus for three years and he has been a hotelier for 22 years, studying in London. He looks easy-going but he seems to keep a sharp eye on his hotel which is his joy and pride.
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