Its was born as the Galle Face House in the year 1864 to host the guests of the then Colonial Governor. Since then it has journeyed an unbroken and singular path to earn a little known title as the first purpose built hotel in the country.
Words Prasadini Nanayakkara
Today Galle Face Hotel is closing 150 years as it continues to offer its guests an inimitable old world charm in the heart of the City. In a global perspective the Galle Face Hotel closely trails behind the very first purpose built hotel in the world – a prototype of a modern hotel built in Boston USA in 1829. Today Galle Face Hotel holds an unmistakable presence with a potent combination of hospitality and heritage.
Recently the Hotel had cause for celebration as, in a short period of three years past, it was awarded four prestigious accolades, namely the first and only Presidential Award for the Best Heritage Hotel in 2009, PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Grand Award for the Best Heritage Hotel in 2011, Sri Lanka Tourism Award for the Best Heritage Hotel in 2010 and World Travel Award for the Best Business Hotel in 2011. Established as a small category hotel of 160 rooms Galle Face Hotel nurtures its signature colonial heritage as an ode to its simple beginnings and its many old world nuances will remain preserved for generations to come. In acknowledging its successes, the expertise behind the veteran Hotel intends that its many accomplishments would further bolster the image of the country as a destination while encouraging others in the industry as well.
It was 16 years ago that a 26 year-old Sanjiv Gardiner stepped into the shoes of his father Cyril Gardiner in taking over the reigns at Galle Face Hotel. His father and his grandfather; Chiththampalam Gardiner were the first Sri Lankans to invest in the Hotel. However, it was the young entrepreneur Sanjiv Gardiner who held the vision of playing to the strengths of the Hotel, while reinforcing its standards with the aspirations of becoming a viable competitor beyond the shores of the island. His acumen found him in good stead as the Chairman and CEO of the Gardiner Group, that included the Ceylon Hotels Corporation, Kandy Hotels Company and Lihiniya Surf Hotel, Bentota as well. While elevating the 60 room property that he inherited to 160 rooms of the Galle Face Hotel, the Group’s other ventures acquired him 20 hotels around the country; a total of 600 rooms. Queen’s Hotel and Hotel Suisse in Kandy are some of the established names in its portfolio of properties. The predominant feature in all of these properties is that the Sri Lankan Identity remains alive. Sri Lankan food, tradition and hospitality have been revived as value additions to each of these properties.
The predominant feature in all of these properties is that the Sri Lankan Identity remains alive. Sri Lankan food, tradition and hospitality have been revived as value additions
With peace prevailing across the island it is with much enthusiasm that Galle Face Hotel embraced its accomplishments whilst looking to a future of opportunities. “In making improvements to the industry value-addition is crucial,” notes Chandra Mohotti, Senior Vice President of Galle Face HotelManagement. With 39 years of experience Chandra Mohotti is a veteran in the industry. He stresses on the importance of building image with value for Sri Lanka. Observing that in the face of a flourishing tourism industry and ample opportunities for all, “it is to be comparable in the region that we must now lay focus on and to that end value addition requires exceptional service standards. However during the lull over the past three decades, much of the expertise that has gone out of the country needs to be replaced.” A move that would demand a fresh take on the training processes currently in place in the country.With sophisticated infrastructure and developments readily available elsewhere across the region, in playing to the strengths of the country, “emphasis must be on uplifting standards and amplifying Sri Lankan hospitality,” he stresses further. Another development Chandra Mohotti sees is the need for an organised system for domestic travel where local travellers or families can also indulge in the offerings of the industry. At present as a part of the Group’s efforts to enhance image, re-branding is currently underway with some properties promoted as “Prestige” and others as “Heritage” or “Rest Houses”. And incidentally its chain of lodging properties in Sri Lanka caters to both domestic and foreign tourists.
At this turning point in the industry Chandra Mohotti observes that there is a golden thread that runs across the hospitality industry of Sri Lanka, “the inherent Sri Lankan culture of the smile.”