10 August 2009

Sri Lanka Aitken Spence eyes tourism projects in the north and east

07th August 2009, www.lankabusinessonline.com

Sri Lanka's Aitken Spence said it was eyeing tourism projects in the north and east of the island after the end of an internal conflict though group earnings dropped as arrivals slumped both at home and in the Maldives.

"We are vigorously looking at opportunities in all sectors to partner in the development of the North and East provinces," managing director J M S Brito said in a statement.

"Concerted destination marketing and infrastructure development in targeted tourism hotspots would give reasons for the industry to be bullish about Sri Lanka’s tourism prospects, in spite the recession curbing global travel."

A 30-year war with Tamil Tiger separatists ended in May when its leadership was wiped out by the military. Eastern Sri Lanka in particular, has some of the most beautiful beach stretches in the island, including Arugam Bay, a top surfing destination.

Group profits dropped 24.1 percent to 293.8 million rupee for the June quarter, while revenues dropped 20.0 percent to 5.0 billion rupees.

Aitken Spence is the largest foreign resort operator in the Maldives.

"A sharp drop in tourist arrivals to the Maldives due to the global recession had a negative effect on the tourism sector earnings in the first quarter," Brito said.

"With aggressive promotions in alternative markets, especially in East Asia, we hope to further diversify our markets in the future."

It also has operations in Sri Lanka, India and Oman.

Aitken Spence is also in shipping and power generation.

At pre-tax level the tourism sector lost 188.7 in the June quarter against a 25.0 million loss last year. Profits in shipping, classified as cargo logistics, increased to 134 million from 88.9 million.

A sector classified as 'strategic investments' which is mostly power generation, earned 384 million rupees, down from 484.8 million rupees.

Another sector classified as 'services sector' showed an increase to 156.9 million from 57.1 million rupees. Services include fees for power sector operations and maintenance (O & M), money transfer services, insurance, an agency for OTIS elevators and building management.

O & M revenues had increased after a contract with Caterpillar Power Ventures for the Ambilipitiya 100 MegaWatt plant ended last July.

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