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Sheraton to build five star hotel in Colombo
Saturday, 8 January 2005 - 1:56 AM SL Time

The Sheraton Group will sign an agreement with Universal Enterprises of Maldives to construct a five star plus hotel in Colombo.

According to Mohamed Umar Maniku, Chairman, Universal Enterprises, the Tsunami devastation in both Sri Lanka and the Maldives has not changed their plans for this investment. `We will sign the agreement with Starwood Hotel and Resort of USA within two months,` he said.

A property in Colombo in close proximity to the World Trade Centre has been already earmarked for this project. He said that they have already contacted Anura Bandaranaike, Minister of Tourism and Industries and Indika Gunawardane, Minister of Urban Development in this regard. `They have promised to help us in whatever way they could,` he said.

He said that the construction of the hotel would commence this year and should be completed in 14 months. He said the hotel would be a fully-fledged business hotel with 300 rooms all-modern conference facilities and offering suites and apartments. `It would be the first of its kind in Sri Lanka,` he said.

The total investment for the project would be around US $ 40 million and it would generate direct employment opportunities for over 500.

Maniku who built Maldives` first hotel, Kurumba in the 1970s said that they have been increasing their investments to Sri Lanka in the recent times. `I was educated in Kandy and I know that tourism would become Sri Lanka`s number one foreign exchange earner very soon despite the aftermath of the Tsunami,` he said.

The Group already owns major shares of Mahaweli Reach Hotel and bought Hotel Swanee. In addition they have constructed Valliant Towers at a cost of US 2 million.

`Universal is also looking at investing in another hotel project in Ambalangoda next year,` he said.

He said that the Kurumba Village, with 77 superior and deluxe rooms, 74 deluxe bungalows, 16 private and 8 pool Villas, 4 Presidential Villas and one Royal, 768 square meters had been completely dismantled and rebuilt three times. `I believe that every hotel has to change to the demand and this is why I do this,` he said. He said that Kurumba offers the best conference facilities in the Maldives and this is what he hopes to do in Sri Lanka.

He said that the Tsunami would only be a temporary setback for tourism in both countries. `We have new guests checking in for Kurumba and over 150 rooms are now occupied,` he said.

The exclusive popular island resorts of the Maldives is open for business as usual, except for about six resorts that have encountered considerable damage. The Ministry of Tourism of the Maldives has worked closely with the resorts, tour operators, travel agents and the airlines to keep the tourism industry running smoothly.

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