Mankind has lost its grip on the forces of nature – The Island



By Dr. Chandana (Chandi) Jayawardena DPhil

President – Chandi J. Associates Inc. Consulting, Canada

Founder & Administrator – Global Hospitality Forum

Crisis Management in the Post Pandemic Era

Last week I chaired the eighth International Conference on Hospitality & Tourism Management (ICOHT 2021). Professor Suranga Silva of University of Colombo was my Co-Chair. We selected ‘Post Pandemic Tourism & Hospitality’ as the theme for this yr’s convention. Some 105 students from over 20 international locations made some thought-provoking shows through Zoom. Apart from my welcome speech, I used to be concerned in moderating a webinar on ‘Spiritual Tourism’ and a Worldwide Hospitality And Tourism Themes (WHATT) roundtable dialogue with a dozen specialists from completely different international locations.

A key theme of dialogue was re-building the tourism and hospitality trade after the pandemic. The significance of leaders’ potential to handle crises was mentioned. The taking part students agreed that disaster administration needs to be properly lined in syllabi of hospitality and tourism administration academic applications. Increasing of international power costs was seen as the tip of the iceberg of a collection of new crises which will have an effect on tourism and hospitality trade. Scarcity of hospitality skilled labour was additionally recognized as one other disaster.

History exhibits that tourism at all times bounces again, however it is going to take an extended time in the post-pandemic period. Crisis administration expertise of managers, subsequently might be important in the ‘new’ tourism. Whilst appreciating that disaster administration now has a brand new degree of significance, it has to be famous that it at all times performed a job in lodge administration round the world.

A Crisis at Coral Gardens Hotel

In August, 1975, Bentota Beach Hotel grew to become considerably busier once more. This was attributable to the mini vacationer season ensuing from the Kandy Perahera held on 10 days with over 100 elephants and greater than 1,000 dancers. Some of the vacationers who arrived in Sri Lanka to see the Perahera visited the west coast for just a few days regardless that the sea was nonetheless tough. As the Trainee Executive Chef, I additionally grew to become concerned in serving to the administration crew to plan for the subsequent vacationer season.

One day I heard some information about the sister lodge of Bentota Beach Hotel – Coral Gardens Hotel, which was positioned in the seaside city, Hikkaduwa, simply 23 miles south of Bentota. Coral Gardens Hotel was one of the earliest motels to open in the mid-Nineteen Sixties quickly after Sri Lanka recognized tourism as an trade with potential for financial development and employment era. The key attraction of this lodge was the close by underwater backyard well-known for its corals and colleges of superbly vibrant fish. The lodge operated the important glass-bottomed boat excursions for vacationers visiting Hikkaduwa.

As Coral Gardens operated with a really small management crew of simply two managers (Manager and the Assistant Manager), Bentota Beach shared its Chief Accountant and the Maintenance Engineer with its sister lodge. Coral Gardens steadily confronted issues with commerce unions, and native fishermen and villagers who tried to promote handicrafts and corals to vacationers. Therefore, though smaller than Bentota Beach, it was tough to handle. A well-experienced hospitality supervisor – ‘Pappa’ Paranawithane was the fourth supervisor in 4 years to handle that property. He had out of the blue retired and round the identical time the Assistant Manager – Bobby Adams, resigned to simply accept an excellent provide to open the first lodge developed by John Keells/Walkers Tours Group – The Village, Habarana.

Meeting Bobby Adams

By then I had learnt that profession constructing relies upon on relationships one fosters all through one’s profession journey. I met Bobby Adams for the first time in 1975, two weeks previous to his departure from the firm. That was at Bentota Beach Manager’s (Malin Hapugoda) workplace, when Bobby got here to say goodbye. Just a few days after that, on Bobby’s invitation, I visited him at Coral Gardens. He was a humble man who started as a dishwasher working his method via a tough life. For skilled coaching he had performed solely a six-month craft course in Cookery at the Ceylon Hotel School whereas working as an Assistant Cook for Joe Wallace, then a widely known caterer in Sri Lanka (later Bobby’s father-in-law).

Bobby was additionally a rolling stone, however gathered heaps of sensible operational information whereas altering jobs steadily. He was impressed that, identical to him, I had labored at 10 institutions in a brief span of 4 years in the hospitality trade. We in contrast our experiences in institutions the place we each had labored at completely different occasions – Pegasus Reef Hotel, Windmill Restaurant and Havelock Tourinn. At the very youthful age of 25, he was now changing into a Hotel Manager. Three years later, he grew to become the first-ever hotelier in Sri Lanka to turn out to be a director in cost of a lodge firm in the company workplace (John Keells), surpassing all Ceylon Hotel School graduates of his age group.

Bobby Adams was the most ‘street-smart’ hotelier that I ever met. He was additionally an excellent story teller who typically ‘spiced up’ the story in his favour. From the friendship I developed with him, I received quite a bit of sensible ideas. The important factor I learnt from him was tips on how to create a optimistic picture and make a reputation for myself as a hotelier.

Just a few years later, I labored underneath Bobby twice as one of his Hotel Managers and later as the General Manager for the largest and greatest two motels in his company portfolio of seven motels. When I used to be 27, I additionally grew to become his deputy at John Keells head workplace. When I married in 1980, he was my bestman. Also in the identical yr, Bobby and I invested in a small boutique lodge in Matara – Beach Lodge, the place we had been companions and administrators. I final met Bobby when he attended my fiftieth celebration held at Mount Lavinia Hotel in the direction of the finish of 2003. A yr after that, sadly, Bobby handed away at the age of 54.

Exploring a New Opportunity

“Chandana, come out of the kitchen and join me to go to Hikkaduwa for something very important”, Indrapala Munasinghe (Muna), the Assistant Manager of Bentota Beach Hotel advised me whereas I used to be preparing for lunch service someday. Muna was 5 years my senior at the Ceylon Hotel School and was subsequently skilled in France on a lodge operations scholarship. On our method, Muna advised me that he was provided the place of the Manager of the Coral Gardens Hotel. Up to that time the kitchen division there was collectively managed by a Kitchen Clerk and a Head Cook. Muna had satisfied the board of administrators that the lodge wanted a professionally skilled Executive Chef. That suggestion had been accepted and in spite of my younger age, I used to be his alternative for the job. Thank you, Muna!

While we had been pushed to Hikkaduwa by one of the lodge drivers, I negotiated with Muna that my wage might be elevated by 50% to Rs. 750 a month and that I might be promoted as the Assistant Manager and Executive Chef if I carry out properly throughout my first six months. We shook arms and that was the deal. Exactly six years later, Muna and I each joined the Ceylon Hotel School as Senior Lecturers on October 1, 1981.

Just earlier than reaching Hikkaduwa, I used to be shocked when Muna stopped in Godagama to satisfy two powerful enterprise individuals from the space – Lesley and Dudley. Then we went to their seaside inn – Beach Cabins in Hikkaduwa which was a small rustic place with six rooms attracting diving lovers travelling on shoe-string budgets. I quickly realised that Lesley was the boss of the city. He was well-built and robust and owned just a few fishing boats and employed many villagers to do the fishing for him. He was additionally the greatest deep-sea diver in the space. After a pair of rounds of arrack and devilled beef, we shook arms and proceeded in the direction of Coral Gardens Hotel. Lesley was happy that Muna and I got here to get his blessings previous to commencing work in his territory. We had his assurance that none of the native fishermen will create any hassle for us.

While we had been approaching the lodge, Muna defined to me that “It is always better to do Public Relations (PR) with the people who matter well in advance, prior to any problems arising.” I used to be satisfied that Muna was right. I used this idea in my later profession each time I labored in an space that was significantly hostile to motels seen as wealthy and egocentric establishments by poor fishermen and villagers struggling to make ends meet. We walked round the lodge, checked out the workplace we had been to share from the following week and adjoining flats inside the lodge offered to the Manager and his Assistant. Bobby Adams was packing to go away for Habarana to guide The Village Hotel opening challenge.

When Bobby confirmed me the kitchen, I used to be dissatisfied. It was outdated in phrases of tools and structure in comparison with the Bentota Beach kitchen. It was additionally behind time in phrases of menus, operational procedures, manufacturing processes, buffet shows and kitchen uniforms. Some of the members of the kitchen brigade had been shocked to be advised by Bobby that I might be in cost of the kitchen in a single week’s time as the first Executive Chef of their lodge. Looking round, I guessed that the majority cooks had been of their forties. I used to be solely 21.

Career Mentoring by Malin Hapugoda

When we returned to Bentota Beach that night, I started packing and saying goodbye to my colleagues. I had a motivating assembly with the Hotel Manager – Malin Hapugoda (Hapu). He advised me to contemplate all these shortcomings I seen at Coral Gardens as my alternatives to make a major enchancment to services and products. He additionally advised me that as Coral Gardens may have solely two managers, Muna and I’ve to be aligned correctly to attain frequent objectives, revenues and income whereas managing the demanding unions with quite a bit of tact and endurance.

On my final day at Bentota Beach the place I spent just one yr, I felt that Hapu noticed some higher potential in me. Four years later, as the supervisor of neighbouring Hotel Swanee, I grew to become nearer to Hapu, with whom I served on an affiliation committee as workplace bearers. Four years later, in 1983, the day earlier than I left Sri Lanka for graduate research in the UK, the telephone rang and it was Hapu. He wished me luck and checked after I might be again in Sri Lanka. When I advised him that it is going to be probably in 1985, Hapu mentioned, “Call me the day you return and I will have a job for you.” That was as the first supervisor of a 150-room four-star lodge in Hikkaduwa which Hapu was in cost of creating at the moment.

Around 2006, Hapu referred to as me in Canada. By then he had turn out to be the Managing Director of the solely Sri Lankan lodge chain working motels in 4 international locations – Aitken Spence Hotels. This time, he provided me the publish of Chief Executive Office, Aitken Spence Hotels in Oman, in cost of 5 motels. Although I might have beloved to work with Hapu once more, attributable to my commitments in Canada I couldn’t settle for that profitable provide.

Finally, in 2014, forty years after working as a junior member of his administration crew at Bentota Beach Hotel, I did a brief consulting project for him. Hapu was then in cost of 27 motels. I designed and delivered a crew constructing session for his senior crew of Vice Presidents and General Managers of Heritance and Aitken Spence Hotel Group. I felt deeply honoured when Hapu sat via all my coaching classes together with his crew of their company workplace in Colombo. To me, Hapu is the most completed hotelier Sri Lanka has ever produced. I’m proud to say that he’s my pal.

Muna and I left Bentota Beach on October 1, 1975 and took over the administration of Coral Gardens.

(Next week, surprising challenges as Coral Gardens Hotel’s first Executive Chef at age 21)