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Young Entrepreneurs :

High taxes affecting small hotels

Inspired by the occasional travelling and dining, he was attracted to the tourism industry from his young age and thus decided tourism to be his career. He is Elephant Reach Hotel and Lanka Leisure Travel Director Malinga Fernando who has stepped into lead the hospitality industry.

Following are excerpts of the interview with Fernando for this week’s column.

Q: How did you come up with your enterprise?


Elephant Reach Hotel and Lanka Leisure Travel Director Malinga Fernando

A: The company, Elephant Reach Yala was set up by my father in 2006. I studied for the diploma in hospitality in Switzerland for three years and completed my bachelors degree in Chicago later on.

Then I took over the management of the company. In the meantime, I started a travel company, Lanka Leisure Travel (Pvt) Ltd on my own in 2009. We are also into event management and we have completed several events.

Q: As a young entrepreneur what are the challenges you face?

A: I am new to the industry. It took me sometime to make a name and to be known in the industry. I think I will be able to make a name gradually. It had been a challenge and at times demotivated me.

Hotel Elephant Reach is a leading hotel operating in Yala and there is huge competition in the area. Therefore, we have to be smart and tactful when competing in the market.

We have a proper plan to face the challenges in the market.

The competition in a way is good to give the best out of it to the customers. The more choices we give to our customer is how we make the industry competitive. We try to make ourselves better than the competitors as a result of the competition. We are ready to face the competition.

Q: What are the strengths of the company?

A: We are a new company and we have a young team.

The staff of ours is open to new ideas, trendy and flexible. We don’t follow a set of rules and we always try to think out of the box.

The staff of mine is 55 and we always back them to give their best to the company.

It is the commitment and communication between them that takes the company forward.

Even during difficult times where Yala was under a terrorist attack, we tried to help our staff as much as we can. We paid them salaries on time and this made them understand what sort of a company we are.

Q: As a young entrepreneur how do you manage your enterprise?

A: It is the simple method of giving and taking. We make the employees understand about the operations of the company and its objectives. I make myself clear to them of what I want them to do.

I try my best to make them help in their private matters as well. I believe that one cannot separate their private life from the professional life. So, when there is an issue with an employee, I involve as much as I can in solving his or her problem.

Q: How did you supply with capital initially?

A: The company was funded by the Lanka Ice Group of Companies which was owned by my father.

The total investment for Elephant Reach Hotel was Rs 200 million.

Q: Why did you select the hospitality industry as your career?

A: It has been my passion to be in the industry. It is said that experienced professionals in the industry can never be deceived because he knows every nook and corner of the industry. I have been working in Hilton Hotel and received training from the Ceylon Hotel School.

Q: What are the strategies you adopt to enhance the employee efficiency?

A: I do not overload work on them. We always try to give them eight hours shift which makes them fresh and thus help in getting the maximum out of them.

Educating them on the industry, customer service, customer handling will be a motivating factor for them to improve themselves while helping the company. Basically, I look after them so that at the end of the day I could get the best out of them. We always help them in any matter. Giving them the necessary values will take them forward and even if they leave this job, the values they gain will help them in succeeding in the industry.

Q: What is your goal in business?

A: We need to be the best hotel operator in the Asian region. If we dream big we will at least end up in being the best hotel operator in Sri Lanka.

Q: What are your future plans?

A: We have plans to come up with few hotels and we already have a few properties to be developed. We need to make ourselves the best in accommodation provider in wildlife. Yala is the only place where there is the highest density of leopards in Sri Lanka. Therefore, we need to promote Yala covering Wilpattu as a safari destination. The company will invest in beach resorts and boutique hotels in the future. We need to create a brand name in the industry.

Q: What is the support you expect from the Government?

A: The Government needs to make themselves clear on what they would do for the industry. It is very much appreciated that they have plans to make tourism the best industry in Sri Lanka. Most of the hotels are owned by the private sector and taxes are on the rise which is a hindrance for the development of the industry.

The Government should give support for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the industry.

The Government should release loans for us to upgrade and expand the hotels and give lands on lease and promote Sri Lanka as a destination. In Sri Lanka, there are many places which are not marketed properly. Sri Lanka should have more accommodation for tourists. Making use of the expertise in the market to make a clear plan would be a good idea for the Government.

Q: What is the support you get from your family members?

A: My parents have been the only support for me to get to this position. They have been supporting me through out my education and my profession. I travel a lot and they have been very supportive in understanding me.

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