Sujeet Kumar


Navigating trends and expectations in the evolving hospitality landscape

Sector overview

Hospitality in Sri Lanka is on the upswing.

Evidence of upswing

With a target of at least 1.5 million travellers in 2023, it was heartening that we welcomed one million visitors by September, which was a morale booster – and we nearly met the target for the year.

Core strengths

The sector requires good people who can leverage their inherently hospitable nature and continuously develop this core strength.

Latest trends in leisure

Sustainability, responsible luxury, experiential travel and going local.

Adding value

Improve training of personnel to ensure personalisation of guest experiences since true luxury is about anticipating service requirements and receiving more than the brand promise. 

Threats to sector personnel

Limited opportunities for skills development and professional growth, and the high cost of living, are making overseas options more attractive to many.

Addressing the threats

Partnering with industry for skills development and competitive salaries; and associating wellbeing with diversity, inclusion and equality.

Technology and guest experiences

With loyalty apps and offerings, guests can personalise and curate their stays even before arrival – this delivers exceptional guest experiences.

Food safety strategy

Train associates to practise and maintain international food safety standards, and comply with local safety and sanitation regulations – and conduct unannounced audits.

Evolving customer expectations

With varying demographics and worldwide travel, guests are becoming more discerning and vocal with their feedback (both positive and negative) on social media.

Advice to tourism industry leaders

Listen and communicate with guests, and proactively engage with them in all phases of their stay.

Listening attentively

This keeps businesses agile and helps identify ways to improve services. And good public relations personnel will be able to respond to feedback promptly.

Scope of tourism in Sri Lanka

There are many opportunities to attract high-end luxury travellers and stimulate demand due to the island’s untapped natural resources.

Domestic tourism

The tourism industry should con­tinuously tap domestic travellers to help meet its potential.

Opportunities for growth

Renewed international interest creates opportunities for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) events.

Other opportunities and outcomes

There are destination weddings and even Bollywood film shoots, which help increase demand.

Sri Lanka’s appeal

An abundance of attractions, which include wildlife parks, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, scenic hills, places of religious worship, and regions in the north and east.

Niche experiences

Culinary and spice tours will bolster growth in the hospitality sector.

Challenges from competition

It’s a fierce and competitive market with a focus on Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Russian and European travellers.

Growth potential

There is still room for growth and we can create our niche offerings based on guest requirements.

Strategy to stay ahead

Position hotels by offering ‘responsible luxury’ – i.e. with impeccable services, and great products and services.

Complementary strategies

Consciously promote local food, goods and services to reduce our dependence on imports; and consider variables such as availability and restrictions.

Tips for professional development

Seek professional and stable growth in reputable hotels – don’t keep switching jobs frequently for a few dollars more.

Careers in hospitality

People need confidence; patience; good communication skills; a willingness to work hard and be open to new ideas, as well as creative and passionate; and possess a long-term vision.

Strengths of our human resources

Resilience, agility and an unstoppable outlook.

Vision for the sector

The vision for Sri Lanka is to position it as a luxury destination for tourists and destination weddings, and an ideal location for MICE – both domestic and international.

Factors that militate in favour of the above

Developed city infrastructure and good airline connectivity to gateway cities.

Mantra for success

When given a choice between two options, take both – because if you do what you have always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.

– Compiled by Dona Senara
Sujeet Kumar is the General Manager of ITC Ratnadipa – Colombo.