Utilise its resources to the maximum for the benefit of the people of this country.” With these words the Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Champika Ranawaka handed over the chairmanship of Waters Edge to Chamath De Silva in 2015. With a goal of becoming an organisation with a five billion rupee turnover by 2020, [...]


Waters Edge: Expanding entertainment hub


Waters Edge: The picturesque location away from the bustle of the city

Utilise its resources to the maximum for the benefit of the people of this country.” With these words the Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Champika Ranawaka handed over the chairmanship of Waters Edge to Chamath De Silva in 2015. With a goal of becoming an organisation with a five billion rupee turnover by 2020, Mr. De Silva and his team have been doing just that for the past two years.

Waters Edge, which had its start as a private members-only golf club, once taken over by the government established its name through its restaurant and banquet operations. The last two years has seen a shift in focus towards recreation and entertainment, especially family-oriented entertainment. A necessary shift if they want to meet their 2020 goal, without government financial backing. “We are not touching government funds,” says the Chairman emphatically.

Instead Waters Edge has opted for a more sustainable financing of reinvesting profits and entering into strategic partnerships with the private sector to fund the diversification of their business. “We want to make Waters Edge an entertainment hub,” says Mr. De Silva, explaining that they hope to achieve this with a three-pronged strategy of innovation driven, technology-driven and redefined business scope.

Unlike city hotels which have in-house guests, Waters Edge is disadvantaged by its lack of accommodation. But its picturesque location and sprawling grounds is a strength they’ve capitalized on. “It gives us great value,” Mr. De Silva proclaims. Under his vision Waters Edge has seen great expansion, with upto 15,000 sq ft added to the property, and several new ventures being undertaken.

One such venture has been the floating restaurant. Operated by Waters Edge, the restaurant barge which cruises through the Diyawanna water channels adjoining the hotel, gives guests a novel dining experience. In order to further use their proximity to the Diyawanna Oya, Waters Edge has partnered with foreign companies to introduce water and adventure sports such as bungee jumping and a viking boat to the area. Using a revenue share model and tying up as sole food and beverage provider, Waters Edge hopes that when the project which is planned to launch in 2018 is off the ground, it will result in more revenue generation.

Over the years Water Edge has come to be known as one of the premier wedding locations in the country, with its manicured and sprawling landscape being its main attractions. In a bid to promote itself as wedding destination among tourists, Waters Edge will host a hundred newly married Chinese couples in a large ceremonial wedding dinner on its pristine lawns. The dinner is part of a larger event initiated by Sri Lankan Tourism and the Ministry of Megapolis, where a hundred couples will be married simultaneously in Colombo, in the presence of the President and Prime Minister. The event, which sees a Chinese Olympic medalist tie the knot, will receive wide publicity from Chinese media, including the state owned CCTV.

The move to present itself as a wedding destination for foreign group weddings seems to be working as already over 300 foreign couples  have registered to be married in 2018 at the hotel. Mr. De Silva explains that such a venture is only possible due to the strategic partnership they’ve entered into with Green Leaves, a Chinese firm. “We can’t offer them the other facilities but what we can is our location,” Mr. De Silva says, alluding to the fact that Waters Edge doesn’t have accommodation to house the foreign couples.  But its ballroom capacity is being expanded to 1200 and four bridal rooms as well as a honeymoon suite will be added to the property. A new banquet hall is also planned which they hope to position as the best and largest in Colombo.

Waters Edge Chairman Chamath De Silva. Pic by Priyantha Wickramaarachchi

2018 seems to be the year when most of their expansion plans will come to fruition. A 48 room boutique hotel will be completed by the end of 2018 and more restaurants added to its portfolio. one housed in train carriages on the edge of the property. Plan are also afoot to introduce the ‘Colombo Eye’ much like the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel to give patrons a panoramic view of the capital city as well as the Colombo skyline.

Interestingly their plan will also include the promotion of Sri Lankan culture. Waters Edge has partnered with Green Leaves once again, to build a theatre with 500 seat capacity. Scheduled to open this December, it will see cultural performances by professional Sri Lankan dance troupes, and will specifically target a foreign audience. “If we are successful, this will be a place where we see the most foreigners visiting at a (single) time in Colombo,” Mr. De Silva says.

Their upmarket Sri Lankan restaurant, Thunapaha has recently partnered with the University of Sri Jayawardenapura to research into authentic Sri Lankan recipes. Students of the university taking a grassroots approach, scour the island for recipes which are then tested in the Thunapaha kitchen by professional chefs. The result of their work will be a recipe book containing over a 1000 recipes, which will be released in late 2018.

Government-owned organisations are not known for their effectiveness or efficiency, but Waters Edge seems to have distanced itself from that negative stereotype, with a yearly profit of over Rs 250 million and a longterm vision. Mr. De Silva credits their success to three things: leadership, transparency and work ethic. Minister Champika Ranawaka’s leadership and the trust and the freedom given to him have helped him carry out their vision for Waters Edge, Mr. De Silva notes.

Transparency has helped their performance. Employees must be satisfied that their work results in growth of the organization and is not lining the pockets of a few, says Mr. De Silva. When the employees are satisfied, there is greater innovation, motivation and ownership by them. This translates into greater customer satisfaction, which in turn generates greater wealth, creating a virtuous cycle. The formula seems to be working, and by 2020 the Chairman hopes that it will result in Waters Edge reaching their target.

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