16th May 2010, www.island.lk
Chaaya Blu, a John Keells Hotel that opened in Trincomalee earlier this month, has pioneered star class tourism on Sri Lanka’s awakening East Coast with an 80-room luxury resort entailing a Rs. 450 million investment.
The previous Club Oceanic’s 56 rooms have been expanded into 80 and given a new look and theme with an extensive refurbishment, with the property offering guests four-star comfort and breathtaking views on a prime location with whale and dolphin watching added to other seaside holiday attractions.
"We’re sold out for the Vesak weekend,’’ a company spokesperson said. ``The May deadline for re-opening the hotel has been met.’’
Asked whether the hotel is also being patronized by foreign tourists, the spokesperson said; "Our sales people tell us that about 40% of the guests are tourists. It will quietly build up.’’
Chaaya Blu Trincomalee joins a group five other four-star resorts in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, the owners said.
This hotel is the first sizeable investment seen on the East Coast following the dawn of peace and will meet the demand for quality accommodation with the increasing inflow of tourists into that area.
The John Keells Group owns 40 acres of beachfront land at Nilaveli with development of this property part of its future plans. While the construction of new hotels in the East is very much in the pipeline, actual building has not yet started.
"We take pride in launching a resort of the calibre of Chaaya Blu, a first of its kind on the East Coast, within a mere year of gaining peace in Sri Lanka. It was a much rewarding challenge, given that we can now offer our guests the opportunity to discover and savour all that is truly unique to the East Coast while staying amidst star class comforts," Jayantissa Kehelpannala, Executive Vice-President of Keells Hotels said.
The project, one of the first investment decisions taken by John Keells upon the dawn of peace in May last year, and acted upon almost soon after, as the industry itself had previously been restrained in investing in East Coast tourism.
"With Chaaya Blu Trincomalee we continue to be tourism trendsetters," says Deputy Chairman of John Keells Holdings Ajit Gunewardene. "It is not merely with pride but also with a sense of responsibility that we believe the success of this launch will create confidence towards attracting more tourism development on the East Coast."
With over three decades experience in the tourism industry, JKH, an undisputed industry leader in the hospitality industry, has added fillip to a part of the country which has for long not had much development given the constraints it faced.
"And with the dawn of peace and the realization that there was a dearth of a resort conforming to international standards in Trincomalee, we made a decision to quickly cement our presence on the east coast," Gunawardene said.
He pointed that a 1970s property has been completely modernized with unique contemporary architecture, features and facilities, adding a new dynamic to Sri Lankan resorts as a whole.
"We’ve got a stylish retro-chic product at Chaaya Blu that will set trends in modern resort interiors being outside the typical Sri Lankan resort design," he said.
The owners brought in the skills of master architect Channa Daswatte to imbue the unique blues of the Trincomalee sea and the whites of the sand into the double arched design of the property.
The hotel has 80 rooms including 20 chalets and two suites complementing the Trincomalee landscape. The combination of a series of bleached wooden decks encircles the periphery of the property and a timber boardwalk protrudes across the reception area onto the beach and into the sea.
The beach chalets sell for Rs. 20,000 nett with full board per night and the superior rooms on full board double at Rs. 16,000.
Mosaic walls with strategically placed disco balls in the foyer and denim upholstered mid-century Scandinavian limed furniture accessorized by white dipped terra cotta tiles and clay lamps gives a touch of the Caribbean to the property.
``However much of the promise of the resort seems to involve showcasing the wondrous offerings of Trincomalee itself which have remained long inaccessible for most, Sri Lankans included,’’ the owners noted.
``Another raison d’etre that makes Chaaya Blu special is the abundant sightings of blue whales which now complete a triad of whale sighting locations in Sri Lanka, collectively spanning eight months of the year.’’
Kehelpannala explains "This seaside retreat, with its superior rooms, beach chalets, restaurants and bars is an open invite to enjoy ‘the Blu’ to its fullest. The hotel has a dedicated excursion centre as well as a PADI certified diving centre to enable our guests to make the most of some of the best dive spots in Asia, go snorkeling around Pigeon Island, join a whale and dolphin watching expedition or embark on exciting and insightful tours in to the yet unexplored locality."
The picture of a blue whale - A blue whale with its tail fin sticking out in an incredibly blue ocean, was taken a few days ago near Swami Rock in Trincomalee by Chitral Jayatilake, head of the Nature Odyssey Team of John Keells Hotels at a site 20 minutes away from the group’s luxury Chaaya Blu Hotel.