Jetwing Hotels prepares for overseas expansion

Jetwing Symphony Chairman Hiran Cooray rings the bell of the Colombo Stock Exchange on Friday to mark the opening of trading of the Company shares. Others from left are Jetwing Symphony Directors Yvette Fernando, Shiromal Cooray, CSE CEO Rajeeva Bandaranaike, Jetwing Symphony Directors Dr. Vijith Kannangara, Ruan Samarasinghe and Capital Alliance Partners Global Markets & Investment Banking Managing Director Deshan Pushparajah 

  • Shows interest in investing in Myanmar, 
  • Laos and Cambodia Jetwing Kandy Gallery high-end boutique hotel to be operational next year
  • Plans to develop another property on a 19-acre land in Uppuveli, Trincomalee
  • Says pricing and approvals are major challenges facing  the industry particularly for formal sector
  • Calls for destination marketing campaign
  • Carries out aggressive online marketing campaigns  
  • Biggest markets include China, India and the UK 

By Charumini de Silva

Upon being listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange (CSE) on Friday, homegrown hotel chain Jetwing Symphony Ltd. said it was setting its sights beyond Sri Lanka, a top official revealed.

“We are positioned all over Sri Lanka, so the next obvious step is overseas. Within the next six months we will look at opportunities outside,” said Jetwing Hotels Managing Director Ruan Samarasinghe.

He said the firm was interested in investing in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia as their sustainable business practices, which sees them working together with local communities, fits in with those countries.

In addition, he said they expected Jetwing Symphony’s sixth property — Jetwing Kandy Gallery, which is a 20-suite high-end boutique hotel – to be completed and ready for operations by next year, and thereafter they were looking at the 19-acre Uppuveli property in Trincomalee.

Samarasinghe pointed to pricing and approval as challenges that the industry was facing, particularly the formal sector.

“We are unable to maintain our pricing on a year-on-year basis because the costs are going up. Pricing is a challenge. The informal sector has grown significantly over the years. They have the advantage when they are not classified and most of them do not pay taxes and as a result they can sell cheaper. We have an issue with competing with the informal sector because we have to pay all the service charges, municipal taxes, VAT and so on,” he lamented.

However, he said the company had been able to tackle the situation by maintaining a good occupancy rate, pricing and service standards.

“Beach hotels are averaging about 70%, while round tour hotels are also in the 70%-75% range. Nuwara Eliya is doing exceptionally well, with 90% occupancy and Jaffna has also picked up to about 85%,” he added. Out of the 25 properties apart from the villas, he said there was an increase in average room rates (ARRs) at about four properties, while there was a reduction of about 5%-10% at other properties.

Samarasinghe insisted that the country urgently required a good destination marketing campaign, similar to those conducted by Malaysia and Thailand over the years. “By following a good marketing campaign for the destination I am confident that arrivals and business will thrive.”

Outlining Jetwing Hotels’ marketing strategy, Chairman Hiran Cooray said they were not restricting themselves to one segment. However, using online channels was the most forceful and effective option. “Part of the money goes into the online segment, but we are also looking at traditional markets where we are working through tour operators with niche operators as well as large operators. So we work with all segments,” he added.

He said the company already has invested a lot of money in its own marketing, where they have representatives outside the country selling Sri Lanka first and then their properties. “First we have to market the destination and then we can market our properties.”

The firm has representatives from the UK, Germany, France, Italy and India, while they also have a dedicated staff of eight Chinese workers in Sri Lanka to engage with the Chinese market. According to him the biggest markets right now are China, India and the UK.