Business

Sheraton Colombo likely to open this year 

  • Management contemplates opening when tourism restarts

  • Project faced obstacles from beginning to end

 By Yakuta Dawood 

 

Sheraton Colombo, part of the world’s largest hotel chain Marriott International, is likely to open by the end of this year depending on the status of the country by that time, The Sunday Morning Business learns. 

Speaking to us, Sheraton Construction Project Coordinator Dinesh Arivindra confirmed that even though the construction of Sheraton Colombo has been completed, the date for opening has not been finalised yet by the relevant personnel of Marriott International.

“It’s probably by end this year. Nothing has been finalised due to the prevailing Covid-19 conditions and other external challenges faced by the country. When the tourism sector restarts, the opening is likely to happen to accommodate them,” Arivindra said.

Sheraton was earlier scheduled to be opened within the first half of 2020, but even to date, neither the developers nor Marriot have confirmed an opening date. 

However, when inquired about the delay, Arivindra stated that there were plenty of obstacles from the beginning to now in terms of inaugurating the completed project. 

Explaining them, he mentioned: “Firstly, when the construction began, the neighbours caused an issue which resulted in the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and other officials investigating our work. Secondly, after the project was halfway completed, we were again required to alter our interior designing and redesign the building as demanded by the Sheraton requirements and standards. Finally, Covid-19 had an adverse impact on the opening of the building.” 

Arivindra noted that Sheraton is also waiting for the final certification approval by the relevant authorities. 

Meanwhile, The Sunday Morning Business contacted Lanka Hotels and Residencies (Pvt.) Ltd. Chairman Don Gamini Gunaratne, who also confirmed that the opening is much likely to happen by the end of this year. 

“There were various reasons for the delay for the construction of the Sheraton building such as approval delay by the UDA and also due to the construction halt as investors were very concerned during the investigation period. Meanwhile, the opening was further delayed due to Covid-19 curfew and other external issues,” Gunaratne added. 

Last year, Sheraton Colombo came into the limelight when a group of employees who were laid off by Sheraton wrote a letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in April 2020, identifying themselves as “victimised employees of Sheraton Colombo Hotel”.

This was after a  group of employees were laid off in January prior to the local Covid-19 outbreak, which had caused controversy between the two parties. Accordingly, the laid off employees alleged that the management of Sheraton did not progress with the construction and other preparatory work with a genuine focus to open on schedule, thereby raising questions on whether the project has been abandoned.

Speaking to us last year, Gunaratne stated that they had to be laid off mainly due to cash flow issues created by Covid-19. According to him, around 100 employees of Sheraton Colombo were given letters of termination with the assurance of rehiring them after opening the hotel. The hotel is paying a 25% retainer fee monthly to all these employees.

“Employees have their own views; people will also have their own view. But before Covid-19, salaries were being paid to everyone. Even after, they were all paid until the end of April,” he added.

Furthermore, according to the data available, Lanka Hotels and Residencies (Pvt.) Ltd. and its promoters, Greenwater Resorts (Pvt.) Ltd. of India and Eurocon Building Industries FZE of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), together with their Sri Lankan partner, were reported to have made an investment of $ 80 million in the project.

The Sheraton Colombo Hotel was set to be a 320-room property located in Colombo 3, complete with a presidential suite and other themed luxury suites along with a collection of four restaurant outlets.

The architectural contract had been awarded to a leading global firm of architectural design consultancies, WS Atkins, who are also the designers and engineers for Burj Al Arab, The Address Downtown, Dubai Metro, and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The interior design contract was awarded to M/s Catallo and Associates of Singapore.