Nuwaraeliya is the hill capital of Sri Lanka. Just in case you don’t know about Sri Lanka, it’s a tropical Island just next to the south of the Indian subcontinent. Even though is just 32km apart from the Indian subcontinent of powerful kings and emperors, it was a small but sovereign nation until Europeans took over the power in 1505. And Portuguese, Dutch and English rulers controlled the country until 1948. In 1815, its last kingdom failed and the entire Island came under the British monarchy.
Since then, the British were exploring the country. Just after they took over, In 1818, the British Surgeon Dr John Davy (Brother of Humphery Davy, the inventor of the Miners’ Safety Lamp) came to the highest area of the country. And they noticed that this place with a similar climate to England and also a place full of wild animals for hunting such as Elephants, and other animals and also full of Asoka trees. They renamed this area “Little England”. Also, locals called it “The City of Light” or “The City of Plains”.
So, this city is so popular among local and foreign tourists as its unique colonial heritage and remarkable climate. Nuwaraeliya is with its own characteristics. So, it is a prominent tourist destination.
Why am I interested in
I was also born in the “Nuwaraeliya” administrative district and lived my childhood in a similar and close climate to there. So, Nuwaraeliya is also feeling like my home. After I learnt about tourism and destination management, and even before, I was visiting the city at least once a year. Later it became a habit. Maybe because of my love for British Style or the reason of my home base, I so loved the city. So, until today, I am visiting the city again and again. Also, I am promoting the city as a destination for other people.
What I was thinking
While I was thinking of new ways to develop tourism in Nuwaraeliya, I had a big problem to solve. Actually, it is nearly impossible to concept creators like us to involve in policymaking here in Sri Lanka. Still, it didn’t discourage me from thinking or designing well in my mind.
So, the biggest problem with Nuwaraeliya was the rain. Pretty much every day, you would expect rain as much as in England. Yet there are lots of days out of 365 days, which are great for travel without rain. But the problem with rain as it is unpredictable. Every couple of minutes, wealth might change if it is winter or autumn. Misty and Rainy conditions are the unique features of the city, yet it is disturbing to some travellers who really hate to get wet or chilled.
The government was proposing to develop a Zipline or Cable car as a recreational activity and yet on paper. But, I was thinking somewhere to spend time with fun and do recreational activities without getting wet even if the weather goes bad.
Currently, most of the recreational activities are based on Gregory Lake park which runs by Nuwaraeliya Municipal council. And none of them is weatherproof. Meaning, you cannot avoid bad weather while enjoying recreational activities.
The next problem is most hotels and holiday bungalows are designed to spend nights and provide accommodations other than nothing. Hotels like St Andrew’s by Jetwing and The Grand Hotel – Nuwaraeliya, are extremely classic colonial establishments and the only issue is those buildings are so open concept hotels. None of them was even close to resolving my concern.
My thought was something like a big closed classy shopping mall that was open for the public with indoor recreational activities and also connected with the city’s colonial architecture and heritage. Also, I was looking for something like glass and nature connected. Probably my opinion was inspired by Kuala Lumpur international airport and Singapore airport. Both airports are similar nature-connected indoor recreational hubs where I have been to.
What is the progress with the Araliya Group?
Even my expectation and the original concept was far beyond, Araliya Hotels and Resorts group have made a big difference in Nuwaraeliya pretty similar to what I was planning. They do not completely comply with Colonial architecture and heritage, yet fair enough. They do not have a complete set of things to do, yet they got something to do when the weather is bad. At least, they have created a venue for guests to socialize and participate in some events. As they are four or five-star hotels, it is arguable about their accessibility to the general public.
Araliya group established three Four or Five-star properties in Nuwaraeliya. Araliya Green hills with 160 Rooms, Arliya green city (as they claim, the only 5-star property in the city) hotel consists of 192 rooms. And finally, the Araliya Red hotel consists of 200 rooms. All three property offers plenty of rooftop restaurants, large lobbies, a mini-mart, lobby cafes, and a few large restaurants.
In general terms, they offer plenty of space for people who don’t want to get wet and yet enjoy the city. The most luxurious property, Araliya Green City while standalone in the heart of Nuwaraeliya, offers a food court which is open to everyone. So, it is the most accessible area for any kind of traveller as it is way more affordable than most city eateries and cafes. It is definitely worth than eateries available in Gregory park. So, instead of eating at less hygienic and expensive eateries in Gregory park, someone can visit this food court to save from bad weather and enjoy affordable perfect star class meals. (These price conditions may change over time).
However, the Araliya group continually hosts some special events for festive seasons and also some off-season events to entertain hotel guests and visitors. So, it is not mandatory to stay in these hotels to experience their solutions for the city. So, it would be a great solution for some guests who need much comfort other than exposure to the city.
So, Araliya Group has achieved something that I was designing and developing as a concept and yet there is a future. But I am glad as someone has done my own concept without consulting me or asking me. It means someone has identified the problem as much as I did in 2013.
The First ever Araliya hotel in Nuwaraeliya, Araliya Green Hills Opened in 2013 as a normal property. The second Araliya Hotel, Araliya Green City opened in September 2017. And that was the game changer that I was talking about. And the newest property of the three sisters was Araliya Red which opened in 2020. I visited two new properties and have yet to visit the oldest one, Araliya Green hills. And I could meet one of the family members of owning family of this group, on Christmas Eve 2022 while I was there to celebrate Christmas. I didn’t expect to meet and yet we met and had a small chat. It’s famous influencer Mr Sajeev Rajaputhra and his wife and the daughter Mr Dudley Sirisena (Founder of Araliya group).
My concept development for Nuwaraeliya won’t last and will continue. Even though I appreciate the contribution of the Araliya group, there is a lot to develop further. So, I am more than happy to assist whoever wanna invest in Nuwaraeliya and I may be able to help with concepts to enrich the value of this destination.