Rustic charm of Giritale Hotel

BUILT on the bunds of the 12th century Giritale Tank with a magnificent view of the tranquil blue water dotted with green islands as a backdrop Giritale Hotel has what it takes to be a tourist paradise.

Built in 1974 and managed by Carsons Management Services (Pvt) Ltd., a senior company in Sri Lanka’s hospitality industry, the hotel exudes a rustic charm with the panoramic view of the Giritale Tank and the surrounding forest as an enticing backdrop.

The hotel has 42 rooms of which eight are deluxe rooms, offering star class facilities including TV, IDD telephone facilities, piped music and 24-hour room service. Resident Manager, Giritale hotel, versatile hotelier, T. Ganeshan and his ever-smiling staff treat all guests as VIPs.

This has resulted in Giritale Hotel being popular among ‘repeater’ guests, both foreign and local. The restaurant at Giritale under the guidance of Bar and Restaurant Manager Malika Edirisinghe offers the very best in Western, Eastern, Chinese and spicy Sri Lankan cuisine, prepared by a team of expert chefs. Giritale hotel is popular for family outings, conferences, workshops and for honeymooners due to its romantic setting.

The hotel is offering special discounted packages to Sri Lankans and expatriates. “This is a golden opportunity for Sri Lankan families to spend a memorable holiday in the rustic charm of the Giritale Hotel” RM, Ganeshan said.

The hotel offers Jeep Safaris to Kawdulla, Minneriya and Wasgamuwa National Parks, excursions to Polonnaruwa, Sigiriya, Dambulla, Kandy and Anuradhapura. Elephant rides, Nature walks, Jungle Tracking, Bird watching, Village Tours and Indoors Games, Cricket, Badminton and Volleyball.

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French Tourism pledged support for Sri Lanka Tourism

Minister of Tourism, Milinda Moragoda on his recent visit to France met with Monsieur Luc Chaphel, the Minister (Secretaire de l’etat) of Tourism and Consumer Affairs in France and discussed several areas for corporation.

A framework for a MOU to be signed at a future date was also discussed in detail. Mr. Chaphel pledged his support in the areas of hotel classification, training of staff in hotel management and destination marketing. Mr. Chaphel further requested information on projects undertaken to combat global warming.

Minister Moragoda was accompanied by the Sri Lankan Ambassador in France Ms. Chitrangani Wagiswera, Chairman Sri Lanka Tourist Board Mr. Renton de Alwis and Additional Director General Sri Lanka Tourist Board Mr.Dileep Mudadeniya.

France has recorded an average 35,000 tourists along with 300,000 roaming in 2004 and 2005. Subsequent to the travel advisory in October 2006 arrivals dropped sharply. Sri Lanka Tourism is optimistic that the change of the advisory and the recent visit to France by the Hon. Minister, will provide a kick start for winter arrivals 2007/2008. Arrivals from France mainly patronize hotels and attractions in the Cultural Triangle.

The Sri Lanka Tourist Board recently conducted an independent securing audit which resulted in the French tourism operation resuming the selling of Sri Lanka as a holiday destination. The results of the audit was presented on the 11th September at UNESCO and followed by several of promotional activities.

A separate event was organized to launch the World Tourism Day celebration by inviting leading women to the travel and tourism industry in France. 10 French students studying tourism were invited to submit the projects they have worked on the degree programmes and same was presented to the panel consist of key women professionals. This session was conducted by a welknown TV personality Alexandra Debanne.

A separate cultural show was also organized at UNESCO with more than 1000 spectators that comprised of mainly travel agents and tour operators while Sri Lanka also launched a special promotional campaign titled “Half a price for better half” to increase the numbers immediately.

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Lanka to host UNWTO 2007

Themed ‘Tourism opens doors for women’, the United Nations World Tourism Day 2007 (UNWTO) will be celebrated on September 27 in the picnic area in Bentota from 5.30 p.m.-6.30 p.m. UNWTO has selected Sri Lanka to be this year’s host country for this important event. Sri Lanka has been a UNWTO member for over 30 years.

International delegates, UN World Tourism Organization officials, architects, social scientists, lawyers, doctors, engineers, diplomats, librarians, writers, bankers, insurers, hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents, entrepreneurs, fashion designers, beauty consultants, sports and media personalities will be present.

In addition to the main ceremony several events have been lined up including a women tourism leaders summit, a UNWTO online Photographic Competition at the Taj Exotica Hotel, Bentota, International press conference and a special postal stamp will be issued to mark this day.

Announcing Sri Lanka as a “Green Lung Destination”, the launch of UNWTO WPP world children’s program and a cultural show in the evening in the Bentota Picnic Area after the Official Celebration Ceremony are also lined up. Many events have also been planned by the regional tourism authority along with stakeholders of the industry from September 26 to 28.

It includes a canoe competition, a mini marathon/fun run/a biking event, a competition on “Building Sand Castles” on the Beach, A one day cultural and sports program titled “Sinhala Aluth Avurudu”, a mini marathon/fun run/a biking event and a painting competition and exhibition.

A promotional campaign themed “Men don’t get it” and staging of pow wow events of professional women will be staged till October 31. Each provincial council too has planned a host of events to commemorate this year’s WTO day.

Tourist Ministry Secretary P. M. Leelaratne said, World Tourism Day is commemorated on September 27 each year by appropriate events on themes selected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the United Nations World Tourism Organisations (UNWTO) Executive Council.

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Bentota Beach, Sri Lanka, Worlds Most Romantic Beach – Forbes Traveller

Dangling like a dewdrop from the southern tip of India, the island nation of Sri Lanka is a topographical marvel, where rolling emerald plains gently blend into forested hills, and colorful Buddhist and Hindu temples dot the landscape like jewelry. But the beaches that fringe the perimeter of Sri Lanka are what best capture hearts, especially the sloping sands of Bentota, on the island’s southwestern ridge. Tucked between the warm waters of the Indian Ocean and a lazy blue river just behind it, Bentota Beach is a top choice among sun worshippers who know a garden paradise when they see one.

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Germany, UK review travel advisories

Subsequent to the successful tourism promotions in France and The Netherlands, Sri Lanka Tourism had further good news in the German and the UK markets. The travel advisory in Germany was reviewed by the authorities.

The earlier ‘advice against travelling to Sri Lanka if not essential’ has been deleted from the text of the German travel advisory. Director of the Tourist Board Office in Germany Channa Jayasekera said “this would definitely be most encouraging to the tour operators and travel agents selling Sri Lanka, as the earlier advisory led to confusion and was negatively interpreted by the public.

After a stakeholders meeting organised by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board Office in the UK, where our concerns were shared through the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s (PATA) UK Chapter, Association of National Tourist Office Representatives (ANTOR) and Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the FCO has further softened their travel advisory to Sri Lanka.

“The advisory has been reviewed and reissued with an amendment to the Summary and local travel section, where it now states ‘we no longer advice against travel to the city of Anuradapura’ Director UK and Ireland of the Tourist Board Jean-Marc Flambert said.

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Hotel Flower Garden – The Paradise Garden in Unawatuna

UNAWATUNA beach, in the Galle district, is classified as one of the most beautiful and fascinating beaches in the world. Unawatuna is a paradise for beach lovers, both foreign and Sri Lankan.

The beach is surrounded by a number of star class hotels, and cabanas and is one of Sri Lanka’s most popular tourist destinations. Most of the hotels which were damaged by the tsunami, have now been completely refurbished, and Unawatuna has regained its glamor and splendor.

True to its name, Hotel Flower Garden, at Unawatuna, has been built on a marvellously landscaped one-acre garden which resembles a min-flower garden. It is located within walking distance to the world famous Unawatuna beach, in Galle district.

The hotel which began with nine cabanas in 2003, now offers 25 luxury cabanas with all modern facilities to the discerning traveller.

All cabanas are equipped with A/C, hot/cold water, mini-bar and room service. Hotel Flower Garden has a beautiful and large swimming pool and a well stocked bar.

The restaurant offers the very best in Western, Eastern and Sri Lankan cuisine, together with an ‘A-la-carte’ menu.

The restaurant specialises in French, Italian and German cuisine, the preparation of which is personally supervised by the young owner of the hotel, K. Sassi, who holds a Degree in Food and Beverage, having successfully completed a course in Hotel at Ricken, St. Gallen, Switzerland, for five years as its Food and Beverage Adviser from 1992 to 1996. The hotel offers tours to Koggala Lake, Turtle Farm, fishing in Weligama Bay Beach.

A visit to the ‘jungle beach’ is a unique feature offered by the hotel to tourists.

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French to return to Sri Lanka

French tourists, hopefully in droves, are poised to return to Sri Lanka after the country was cleared for travel as a tourism destination.

A Sri Lanka Day organized by its Tourist Board office in Paris was held last week with Minister of Tourism Milinda Moragoda, Chairman of the Tourist Board Renton de Alwis and the Additional Director-General Dileep Mudadeniya attending in order to introduce new products and the measures taken to re-launch the destination and renew its identity.

The Tourist Board said in a statement that the Sri Lanka Day provided an opportunity for the Board to reveal vital information for the French market.

It said fully aware of its negative image in the French market , Sri Lanka Tourism opted for transparency and requested an independent private French security firm to conduct a security audit related to tourism activities. The evaluation, conducted over a period of 12 days by Sécurité Sans Frontières (SSF), covered various tourism sites, hotel infrastructures, airport and other forms of transport as well as general conditions of security (political, social, health and weather-related issues). The findings and methodology and the fact that it was performed independently (no complicity) of the audit were revealed to the public on September 11 at UNESCO. According to Frédéric Bauer, Président of SSF, “the in-depth study of the security conditions has permitted us to make specific and detailed technical recommendations. The terrorist risk is not that greater in Sri Lanka than other countries visited by the French …. In conclusion, the security situation for us is acceptable for tourism visits to Sri Lanka and I take responsibility for recommending the destination for French Tourists.”

The Board said this positive conclusion is a welcome change to the position adopted by the travel advisory of the French Foreign Ministry which contributed to a great extent the increasing negative perception of the destination due to the security problems related to the North and East of the country.

The active re-launch of the destination will be put in place through various activities with the tourism professionals. They included a “Half Price for your Better Half” from October to December 2007 and January 2008 package; Incentive for Travel Agents; Mega fam trips; Joint Promotions by the Sri Lanka Tourist Board and Tour Operators willing to participate on an equal basis in the costs; a Treasure Hunt that will take place from October 5-12 in Sri Lanka to discover exceptional tourist sites for travel agents.

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Sri Lanka hopes for tourism recovery with easing of travel advisories

Sept 15, 2007 (LBO) – Sri Lanka is confident of achieving its target of attracting 600,000 tourists this year following the relaxation of travel advisories in key markets, tourist board officials say.

“We are confident that this year, looking at the progress we have, we’ll be able to achieve 600,000 tourists for this year,” S. Kalaiselvan, director general of Sri Lanka Tourist Board (SLTB) told LBO.

Some 44,500 tourists visited the island in August, considered one of the peak seasons, with a traditional Buddhist pageant in the central hill country town of Kandy in which a phalanx of elephants parade, being a major attraction.

Although the number was lower than last year’s arrivals for the month, the SLTB is confident the winter season will be better than last year’s as European countries have lifted and relaxed some of the travel warnings that were in force.

“The French travel advisory has been liberalized now and is more conducive for the French tourists to visit us. The Netherlands have also lifted their travel advisory,” Kalaiselvan says.

“These are good signs to say that the situation in Sri Lanka is conducive for tourists to visit.”

The country got over 313,000 tourist arrivals up to August but it was nearly 92,000 lower than the number of visitors compared to the same period last year.

The travel advisories were issued last year when the conflict between the between Tamil Tigers and the government forces intensified.

The Tigers attacked key points in the capital as well as other parts of Sri Lanka during the last quarter of 2006 which led to a sharp fall in tourist arrivals.

This resulted in many hotels being virtually empty during the off-season with average occupancy dropping to around 45-50 percent.

According to statistics, Sri Lanka was unable to achieve the 600,000 visitor target last year and had to settle for 559,000 tourist arrivals.

The country’s 26-billion-dollar economy earned nearly 400 million dollars from tourism last year, the fourth largest foreign currency earner behind tea, clothing and remittances from abroad.
Source : LBO

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Thilanka : A Jewel in the Kandyan crown

A few decades ago, Kandy was not a busy tourist destination like nowadays and there were few hotels to accomodate them. Apart from traditional names, Hotel Thilanka was one of the oldest hotels to join the new Kandyan era of the post tourism boom in the seventies.

It started as a guest house in the mid eighties, which turned out to be one of the most sought after destinations in Kandy. Even after the Esala Perehera, the hotel is fully patronised by many Sri Lankan and overseas tourists. Nestled in the foothills of popular Udawatta Kele, just on a higher elevation to the Dalada Maligawa, Hotel Thilanka reflects the typical Kandyan traditions.

Over looking the city of Kandy and the Lake, Thilanka has well appointed 87 standard and deluxe rooms. This four star hotel has gone through a massive refurbishing programme during the past few months, which gives the complete face lift to the hotel. According to Thanuj Gunawardena, the Managing Director of the hotel, Rupees 30 to 35 million was spent on up grading 30 rooms.

‘The old wing is totally refurbished and we are currently completing the rest including ten balance rooms, coffee shop and the public area’ he said. ‘We simply do not close the entire hotel for this project. We have maintained our occupancy rate at very healthy level during the past months and we do not want to stop this success. It was a packed month for us during the Perehera season. So we go on step by step refurbishing programme and it will be ready for the coming winter season’ he explained.

Bathiya Gunasekera, the General Manager of the hotel said most of the top travel agents are working with them and they stick to them for various reasons. They always come back to us because we have some extra points such as close proximity to Maligawa, City, Udawatta Kele and of course the service’ he said.

It began life as a private house, built by a wealthy Kandyan towards the end of the colonial era. It has now been enhanced by a six-storey new wing, the minimalist décor of the rooms including elegant wooden furniture, television, telephone and mini-bar with all other facilities.

Hotel’s main restaurant serves menus from around the world. Traditional Kandyan dishes are favourites among Sri Lankan clientele. Continental, Chinese, Indian and Japanese food are popular with Sri Lankan and foreign travellers. Lobby Bar and Woodpecker Bar are two top attractions. Thilanka overlooking the picturesque view of the Kandy Lake, the giant Bahirawakande seated Buddha statue, is the ideal base for excursions and relaxation.

‘We arrange tours to various places of tourist attraction such as Dambulla Cave Temple, Sigiriya, Aluvihare, Lankatillake and Embekke Temples of Cultural and artistic value’ GM Gunasekera said. The banquet hall is one of the biggest revenue earners of the hotel, which can accommodate 400 persons. The Board Room is air conditioned with seating capacity for 50 persons, for all conventions and banqueting . The major attraction of the hotel is its Ayurvedic Spa.

The ancient healing arts of the Himalayan Rishis are there to savour at our ‘Ayurvedic Spa. Like the Nawaratna – the nine precious stones that make up one ring for protection, power and lasting health, our Spa offers the herbal secrets to fitness, wellbeing and regeneration’ GM Gunasekera said. Massages, sauna and herbal baths, facial treatment, yoga sessions, medicinal oils, the wonder of floral ingredients, the help of facial packs, toning, and cleansing are some of the treatments available at the Hotel.‘We have Ayurveda treatment too’ he added.

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Clunes Villa: Haven in the valley

By Sanath Weerasuriya

Clunes is a popular name from Scotland. After Scottish planters, Sri Lanka inherited many Scottish names in the plantation sector. Like in Victoria, Australia after the European settlers in the nineteenth Centaury, Clunes came to stay in Sri Lanka not as a township but as a estate name in low country.

But our story about Clunes is a Sri Lankan holiday destination situated just one hour and fifteen minutes drive from Colombo.‘Clunes Villa’ is a Colonial estate bungalow turned to a modern holiday home specially catering for nature lovers. Situated in the middle of rich rubber plantation in Errachi Division in Talduwa Estate, Dehiowita, the Villa is nearly 87 years old.

‘It is just six kms away from Avissawella town on the main highway to Hatton and you can arrive at the Villa within two hours from the Bandaranaiake International Air Port’ said Thushara Sanjay Gunaratne, the Manager of the Villa.

Clunes Villa was originally built in 1920 for the exclusive use of the Scottish Planter John Dunlop. The bungalow maintains its past glory to fit with modern times although extensive repairs were carried out by Clunes Villa’s present owner Gajaba Pitigala, the former Sri Lankan cricketer.

This colonial bungalow is exquisitely built in the centre of five acre tropical jungle with spacious halls, three large bed rooms and two roomed suite with all modern amenities.

‘After I took over this place in 2005, I have spent nearly 15 million on refurbishment to bring it to the present look’ said Gajaba Pitigala, the proprietor of this beautiful bungalow. The biggest change will be the newly constructed swimming pool. ‘It will be ready for the use of holiday makers within a couple of months’ Pitigala said.

All the rooms are fully air-conditioned, a private balcony with a spectacular view of the forest or lake, hot/cold water, laundry services, tarnish baths and on call doctor service, Neutral tones of brown beige and yellow comprise the brightly lit interior which is traditional yet modern which create the slick but simple picture.

The culinary experience at the Villa is one of the highlights of the holiday at Clunes. Clunes Villa allows dining in air conditioned comfort or in the more informal settings of the landscaped garden. It also has an adjacent bar and large area which is strictly for members and visitors of the villa for pre or post dinner drinks, cocktails and coffee.

‘Dining at the Villa is the most important thing. From simple village meal to five star dining experiences is on the menu at Clunes. Our experienced cook is capable of handling any kind of dish’ said Gajaba.

H. G. Karunaratne, popularly known as Karu, the main cook at the Clunes Villa has more than 40 years of culinary experience behind him.He was the chief cook at the Flight Kitchen of the former Grosvenor Caterers, the caterers for the former Air Ceylon and for all outbound flights from Katunayake.

‘At Clunes we treat all guests as Colonial Masters. From English Breakfast to Sri Lankan lunch and High Tea to candle lit dinner is possible at the Villa’ said Karu.

‘If you are a lover of Western, Eastern or Chinese food our kitchen caters for all your needs. Special BBQ nights can be arranged on request to make you feel comfortable and at home’ said Manager Thushara. Clune is also apopular place for foreign weddings.

‘We have already done about 15 weddings of European couples’ said Pitigala. The Villa is centrally located in close proximity to most of Sri Lanka’s natural beauty and its world-renowned heritage. The Villa is an ideal base for excursions to Sinharaja Forest, Udawalawe Wildlife Sanctuary, Botanical Gardens, Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, Horton Plains, Nuwara Eliya, Adam’s Peak, Saman Devalaya, Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy, Beli Lena and many more places of interest.

The Villa is surrounded by rubber and tea estates and is in close proximity to popular waterfalls.‘Clunes Villa is a place for adventure lovers. You can experience white water rafting at Kithulgala just 30 minutes away from Clunes Villa. Experience a day out with your family at Water World in Hanwella, which is just 20km from the Villa’ Mr Pitigala said.

The ruins of Seethawaka Kingdom, Burundi Kovil, Dahanwela Seethawaka Oya are some of the attractions at the close range just fifteen minutes away from the Bungalow. ‘The Villa is just 60km north of the world famous Sinharaja Forest and tours can be arranged for all guests on requests to visit the forest which takes just under 2 hours journey’ Gajaba explained about the arrangement on excursions.

Like wise Udawalawa Wild Life Sanctuary is just under 21/2 hours journey and Udawalawe, which lies within the Ratnapura and Moneragala Districts, acts as the catchments to the Udawalawe Reservoir and is located in the Dry Zone. This Park comprises grasslands and thorn scrubs and many valuable species of trees are found within it. Large herds of Elephants and Deer species such as Spotted Deer, Sambhur, Barking Deer and Langur, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo, Jackal are some of the prominent wild animals found in this Park.

Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya and Haggala too are just under two and half hours drive from Clunes. Nuwara Eliya, Horton Plains, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage , Tea Garden and Water falls are around two to three hours drive from the Villa. Official web site of Clunes Villa :

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