April 29, 2012, 7:17 pmBy Ravi Ladduwahetty
The diversified Finco Group of Companies, started by Queens Counsel and former Chairman of Cargills, Millers and DFCC Bank, Norman Edward Weerasooria (Senior) in 1960, and now running into the third generation under the corporate banner Finco Holdings, is planning more investment to its already ambitious leisure portfolio.
Last year, the group announced that it would invest more than Rs. 2.5 billion which will add 120 boutique hotel rooms in Anuradhapura, Trincomalee and Passikuddah. It now says a fourth project is in the pipeline which could take the total investment to around Rs. 3 billion.
The three boutique hotels are Ulagalla Resort in Thirappane in the Anuradhapura District which has 50 boutique hotel rooms, Jungle Beach in Trincomalee which is also the first off- the- ground boutique hotel in the Kuchaveli Tourism Zone which will also have 50 boutique hotel rooms which will be opened in June and Uga Bay in Passikudah which will have 20 boutique hotel rooms which will be opening in September.
" This is indeed a merger of the intra- group synergies where the building of the hotels have been done by the construction arm of the group- International Construction Consortium Ltd, a market leader in that arena. The furniture of the hotel from another Finco Group member- Alpha Industries Ltd and the chip board also from another member company Dura Building Systems, which purchases paddy from Polonnaruwa paddy farmers and processes it giving it value addition, Finco Holdings Group CEO and ICC Deputy Chairman Harsha De Saram told The Island Financial Review yesterday.
We have gone green with the latest demand for regreening the environment where most of the projects are in accordance with the green concept and we have used renewable energy and solar power, he said.
He said that each of the three projects have cost around Rs. 900 million each and there will be a fourth investment for another luxury boutique hotel at Yala which will be in the region of Rs. 300 million for which approvals have not been granted and that will make the Rs. 3 billion investment portfolio of which 80% will be in equity and the remaining 20% in borrowings.
The proposed Yala boutique hotel will give the visitors a typical African type of jungle experience, he said.
Meanwhile, Finco Holdings Executive Vice President and Uga Resorts Managing Director /CEO Priyanjith Weerasooria said that the Group embarked into the leisure sector in 2009, based on not only the post war tourism rebound but also due to the excess capacity of the construction arm of the Group- ICC which was going into recession at that time.
Our focus in all these three hotels and the fourth one to come, has been on the luxury high end of the market for which there is untapped potential. We will be bent on not only giving the guest a mere luxury hotel room and surroundings but also a rich guest experience which are all hallmarks of the high end of the market, he said.
Ulagalla has rich experiences of horse riding, archery and bicycle tours of the Anuradhapura sacred area which will all provide a value addition to the market that we are tapping. Jungle Beach will also have water skiing and jet skiing along with whale watching and diving and a plethora of activities which will provide rich guest experiences, he said.
The Uga Bay resort which will also have its own identity, will be built on the Mediterranean style where each pod of chalets will have four chalets which will be two upstairs and two down stairs. There will also be a 30 metre swimming pool and open decks for guests to sun bathe.
Finco has decided to operate the hotels on its own, where the operations and the management will be run by a team of leisure industry professionals who will be managing these hotels in the manner making use of the experiences of the Thai and African resort hotels are run and they have all the strategies of procuring the African, Far East and US high end tourists, he said .
Also on the cards is a special trend of procuring high end tourists from India, Japan and China as well.
Weerasooria also said that package tours will also be arranged where it will be within the hotels of the group, giving the guests a unique travel experience.