AITKEN SPENCE HOTEL HOLDINGS
Q: How important is it for the hospitality sector to uphold transparency and accountability?
A: Transparency and accountability are important to any industry or sector – be it hospitality or any other – in establishing a sustainable business model, given that these factors are synonymous with good ethical standards and reputation.
For the hospitality sector, it is even more essential to embody a commitment to these attributes since we are in the business of people. In the Homeric hospitality ideal – which is at the core of the hospitality sector – integrity and transparency become primordial, considering the many expectations of consumers and guests who seek clear information.
Upholding these attributes helps the hospitality sector be more globally competitive as it demonstrates the strength of the policies, procedures and management practices of any organisation.
Being transparent in our corporate disclosures helps us provide timely information and have a better shared understanding with key stakeholders. In evolving with the sector, it is important to understand that price and availability are no longer the only factors that matter.
With the constant disruptions to the world economy, in order to be successful, one must create diverse strategies to improve brand image and maintain customer loyalty. As such, in modernising the product and adapting to today’s customers, clear communication and accountability take precedence.
Transparency has become the central concept for meeting the growing numbers and diversity of needs.
Q: What does it mean to be ranked in the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL) report 2022?
A: It is a great honour for Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings to be recognised within the top 30 corporates and only in the second year of TISL’s assessment. It reiterates our commitment to transparency and good governance, which are part of the core values of the company and the Aitken Spence brand.
This validates investor and stakeholder confidence as it sends a clear signal that we follow ethical business practices and strive to contribute towards good corporate governance.
Q: How important is good governance for a business such as yours, which operates locally and internationally?
A: Corporate governance is the foundation to win the confidence of all stakeholders –including internal and external customers – as they’re increasingly concerned about the ethical and sustainable practices of hotels.
We have understood that well-managed corporate governance mechanisms play an important role as they improve a company’s image, increase shareholders’ confidence and reduce risks, leading to better performance overall.
As a leading hospitality company in each of the countries we operate in – i.e. Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Oman and India – good governance practices are vital to maintain relationships with the operating nations at a governmental level as well as on a strategic partnership level.
Our business is built on the ethos of respect and accountability, and this cascades down to each level of relationship from our associates to guests, to suppliers and partners. Our strategic partnerships and the number of returning clients are testimony to the good ethics and governance structure in place.
Without these, we wouldn’t have been able to maintain our business partnerships locally and internationally.
We’re also pleased to say that Aitken Spence Hotels’ annual reports have been continuously recognised on several awarding platforms. These reports are benchmarked against international best reporting practices such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Integrated Reporting (IR) Guidelines issued by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC).
Q: What are the key challenges faced by organisations such as yours?
A: Currently, liquidity is a challenge. The pandemic has impacted our earnings, and resulted in substantial overhead costs and accumulated loans.
These prolonged challenges do not help even the big corporates and have made it extremely difficult for SMEs in the sector to recover any sooner. Some of our main source markets still remain closed; shortages of raw materials and fuel, and rapid increases in their prices, continue to challenge the recovery of the tourism industry.
Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is also faced with a severe human resource shortage as many are moving away – from both the industry and country. This is for survival and with the depreciation of the Sri Lankan Rupee, more people in the industry prefer to work overseas in the Maldives and Middle East for example.
Q: And what are the organisation’s plans?
A: As a leading hospitality chain that takes pride in service excellence, our plans are to align with ever evolving customers who are becoming more tech savvy and self-reliant, and expect more tailor-made experiences with greater flexibility.
We approach challenges as an opportunity to streamline processes, and enhance bespoke guest experiences with a heightened focus on safety and hygiene measures. We’re pursuing varied strategies in this line to improve our processes to better serve the expectations of our guests.
We’re also investing heavily in new technology as we know that the future lies in our ability to be dynamic and agile.