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Lankan owned Dubai marriott al jaddaf hotel opens

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Nandana Lokuwithana with Deema Kingsmill, Director Public Relations, Marriot International and Wael Farouk

The first ever five star hotel built and owned by a Sri Lankan living overseas, Marriott Al Jaddaf Hotel will be officially opened on September 15 in Dubai. The soft opening of the hotel was held last January.

The hotel was built for one of the world’s largest Hotel Chains, Marriott USA and would consist of 351 rooms and 128 apartments. The hotel is the second building in the UAE after the Sri Lankan Embassy to carry the Sri Lankan National Flag.

The owner of the property Nandana Lokuwithana who operates diversified businesses in Dubai and Sri Lanka said he invested US$ 225 million (approximately Rs. 2.9 billion) for the Marriott Al Jaddaf Hotel project.

He said that the total land value of the property was US $ 35 million and he waited almost an year to get the ground cleared to launch the project.

Hailing form a rural village in Nattandiya, Lokuwithana said that he migrated to Dubai in 1989 as an apparel factory operator and then started his own garment factory employing 400 workers. “Next I moved into the heavy industry field by forming the ONYX Group and later joined with Marriott Group to build this hotel. I built the Marriott Al Jaddaf Hotel according to their new design style,” he said.

Lokuwithana said that this was his first leisure sector investment and he wanted a strong player and this was the reason he came to Marriott. “Marriott is a strong brand and they even stayed on during the Iraqi war.”

He said that he was confident with the influx of tourists to Dubai and with the promotions the country was doing for business and destination he could recover the return on investment in less than 9 years.

Lokuwithana said that they have 550 staff members and he would invest again to build a single occupancy apartment for the hotel’s staff in a nearby location. “This too will be according to Marriott standards.” Lokuwithana now also owns and operates the Sri Lanka Steel Corporation.

Manager of Marriott Al Jaddaf Hotel, Khaled Al Jammal said that since the soft opening they have been maintaining over 55% average occupancy for the hotel and over 90% for the apartments. “Our forward bookings indicate that we would do a average 90% for the first year.”

Sales Manager, Mustafa Kattan said that though they are a five star they are marketing the hotel (BB basis) for around US $ 180 and are also arranging visas for Sri Lankans to visit their property.

Deema Kingsmill, Director of Public Relations, Marriott international said that Marriott Al Jaddaf Hotel was the first in their portfolio of 78 countries that was built with new design and architecture.

(DN)

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