The Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana (Photo Courtesy: John Keells Hotels)

Sri Lankan tourism and leisure industries have shown significant growth in the recent years. The island is a popular tourist destination with its clear seas, golden beaches, central hills and historic sites. Ending of the thirty year internal conflicts have also contributed to a peaceful environment that makes the destination more approachable and popular. Post conflict development includes tourism promotional activities. Identified development zones such as Passekudah are preparing to launch the newly constructed hotels. While new hotels are constructed to meet the influx, other hotels and guesthouses are being refurbished. Improvements in transportation and road network including the southern highway which connect with the heritage city of Galle are significant incentives in the tourism industry.

by Chiranji Abeywickrema

Amid numerous luxury hotels some have created a niche market for themselves with their own style and personalised attention towards the guests. The hotels are designed to cater to various travel and holiday requirements. The majority of the travellers seek holiday accommodation or lodging on business trips. The latter category seeks short term accommodation and travel convenience. Spa treatment and space for relaxation have become a significant contributor in catering to the modern day requirements.

Amid numerous luxury hotels some have created a niche market for themselves with their own style and personalized attention towards the guests.

Cinnamon Lodge, Habarana is a tranquil getaway, a location favoured for family holidays. The 27 acre site is an experience in nature dotted with trees. It is also home to many animals and birds. Chalet type accommodation consisting of 150 rooms in 53 chalets is dispersed across the site according to a layout based on the forest monastery of Ritigala. The chalets are single to two storeyed with traditional tile roofs, exposed black timber rafters, white ceilings and walls. The landscape takes over, leaving the paved walkways that connect the stone plinths of the inconspicuous structures. Black timber frames with black and white panelled timber shutters, terracotta tiled floors are characteristic of the buildings. An occasional niche and door framed by ochre coloured cement mouldings establish the presence of the buildings in the lush landscape. The complex radiates a meditative quality only disturbed by the call of a bird.

The interiors are welcoming and homely with a combination of antique timber furniture built-in tables and seats. A gentle arch could be found to frame a cement seat enhancing the architectural temperament of the place. Black and white interior of the deluxe rooms are accentuated by earthy colours used for upholstery and feature walls. Superior suites are spacious in design equipped with a large sitting area. The suites decorated with local crafts and customer built furniture open out to vistas of the surrounding tropical garden.

Cinnamon Lodge also provides conference facilities, a business centre and a spa. The contemporary spa with its spacious lounge overlooking the garden set the mood for a relaxing holiday.

The naturally ventilated main restaurant with its immense volume, terracotta tiled floors and timber inserts, echo the spirit of the place. A cigar and cognac lounge located above the main bar offers a choice of tea, cognacs, armagnacs or gourmet coffee. The fine dining restaurant overlooking the swimming pool and the lake also features an alfresco dining area on a tree lined terrace.

The hotel is popular for family outings with its vast landscape. A butterfly garden, elephant safari, bird watching, nature trails, fishing, jogging, swimming, badminton and tennis are among outdoor activities enjoyed by the children and adults alike. In addition billiards and other indoor games as well as a library facility make a pleasurable past time. The hotel is known for its distinctive character and variety of activities offered to the holiday maker. Its location in Habarana is ideal for those who are visiting the ancient citadel of Polonnaruwa to rejuvenate after a long day’s journey.

Luxurious comfort and a personalised service make a memorable holiday. Aditya Resort located in the coastal belt of Ratgama, Galle indulges the guests in its tranquil setting and warm ambience. This 12 suite hotel that opened in 2006 is remembered by many for its hospitality and charm. The hotel has an unobtrusive presence. It is reached from a narrow drive way off Galle road, the building hidden from view. The visitor is greeted by a tropical resort with shaded courtyards and a series of arches that define the progression through its spaces leading to the beach. Cement mouldings, use of colour to highlight and framing of the vistas create interest and surprise in its architectural language. The spaces flow into each other seamlessly directing one towards the climax of vast space that explodes into a continuing vista of the ocean. Lavish suites are named after solar deities of Hindu mythology.

The six garden suites have private verandahs and plunge pools while the five ocean suites have balconies fitted with plunge pools. The grand suite, tastefully decorated with regional antique furniture is a two storeyed penthouse with an open terrace overlooking the ocean.

The restaurant and bar are modest in design using a simple palette of materials with cut and polished cement floors, timber furniture and art work of timber and cement. The spacious garden spa, swimming pool and library complete the experience at Aditya which was awarded the title of ‘Highly Commended Small Hotel in Sri Lanka for the Asia Pacific Region’ at the Asia Pacific Hotel awards 2012.

Villa Bentota, a Paradise Road hotel offers a comfortable and relaxing abode in the intimate surroundings of Mohotti Walauwa. The manor house was converted into the first boutique hotel in Sri Lanka by the renowned late architect Geoffrey Bawa in 1970s. The ownership changed in 2007. An entrance pavilion, swimming pool and a new wing was added. The hotel reopened in 2009 with fifteen rooms and suites, tastefully furnished in contemporary fitout. Two executive rooms, four superior rooms, two executive suites, five superior suites (with sea view) and Mohotti suite consisting of two double rooms offer an array of accommodation. Balconies, terraces and courtyards give extra character to the guest rooms giving the guests the privacy to indulge in their choice of past time.

The dining pavilion with its white columns and synthetic cane furniture is in keeping with the spirit of the place. It adds to the private lounges, pavilions and secluded gardens where one could relax in the serene atmosphere and indulge in the comforts the hotel has to offer. Niche hotels with regional flavour and homely comfort are popular among foreign and local tourists alike. These often do not depend on the scenic beauty of a location but offer a unique and fulfilling experience.

The Wallawwa in Kotugoda is an 18th century manor house converted into a boutique hotel with a homely touch. Re-launched in 2012, a series of interestingly designed spaces greet the visitors welcoming them to its vast landscaped garden. Eight garden suites, two Wallawwa bed rooms and two family suites are equipped with king sized beds, wi-fi, wide screen satellite television facilities and rain showers to pamper the guests. Unpretentious décor in the 55 square metre garden suites gives the hospitable feel of a Sri Lankan home, opening out into their private gardens.

‘The Verandah’ is the main dining facility overlooking the garden and offers à la carte Asian fusion cuisine. A serene lounging space is created in the centre courtyard with a reflective pool and a large tree that reflect in water. The swimming pool is tucked away into a corner of the garden giving it privacy from the lavish outdoor lounging areas. A library, games room and spa facility completes the hotel experience. The spa in Wallawwa plays a key role offering therapeutic treatment to the weary traveller targeting the tourists who pass through the Bandaranaike International Airport. The Wallawwa caters mainly for short stay holidays. Its spaces emanate an aura of tranquillity and indulgence in a homely atmosphere.

Despite their diverse locations, ownership and rates these hotels have carved a niche for themselves. Each of them has a distinctive style and character of its own. The scales of the buildings are not intimidating but relate to human scale. They have succeeded in creating an amicable ambience and offering personalised services. The experience is one that touches the soul.