Doubletree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort: an unshakable belief in tourism’s potential
Despite the economic downturn, the nature resort opened its doors to the public.
Amidst an economic downturn, few businesses have the vision to continue investing for the future. However, some businesses are riding the crisis relatively unscathed, and they can do so because they have built resilience into their core and are managed by visionary leaders. DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort is one such example. With tourism globally down on its knees because of travel restrictions, lockdowns, and social distancing rules to contain the spread of COVID-19, it is remarkable that a new hotel property would open its doors at this point with an investment of Rs5.2 billion in a 78-room resort in southern Sri Lanka. The hotel is owned by KDU Adventures (Private) Ltd. and managed by the renowned international hotel chain – Hilton under ‘DoubleTree by Hilton’– the fastest-growing brand which is an upscale chain of over 600 resorts across 47 countries. This is Hilton’s third managed property in the country.
You will find this resort in the heart of the idyllic Bird Sanctuary of Weerawila. It is located 25 minutes away from what promises to be Sri Lanka’s second commercial hub emerging around a port, international airport, and free trade zone at Hambantota. “There was an opportunity for an international brand presence, which was why we picked the location,” said Krishanta Damunupola, General Manager at DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort. “We believe tough times never last and are firmly confident that tourism will boom in the months to come, which is why we timed the opening of this resort.” Sri Lanka’s tourism industry generated over $4.3 billion in 2018 but has since suffered a setback from the 2019 Easter attacks and COVID-19. However, DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort remains certain that this is Sri Lanka’s most promising industry yet. The hotel will soon enter a second development phase, which will see the number of rooms increase by 62 for a total hotel inventory of 140 keys. The building includes guest rooms, meeting and event spaces, ballrooms, restaurants and bars, and other recreational facilities across a sprawling kilometre.
Tourism has the potential to become a $10 billion industry in Sri Lanka, which might transform the fortunes of the country, provided the industry can cater to the needs of a diverse group of visitors from business travellers, to adventure seekers and a growing number of people who look for unique experiences, and care about responsible and sustainable tourism. DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort has all these diverse needs and expectations covered. The resort covers 10 acres of lakefront land with a breath-taking 360-degree view of not one, but two lakes straddling the property. Nature lovers will appreciate the resort’s proximity to three national parks at Yala, Udawalawe, and Bundala, while the hotel itself sits in the Weerawila Tissa Sanctuary, home to over 400 species of resident and migratory birds. Some migratory birds winter here after a long flight from their summer homes in the arctic regions. Tailormade excursion packages give guests the best safari experience with a touch of the DoubleTree spirit. For those who care deeply about the environment and make lifestyle choices around sustainability, they will be happy to learn that the resort did not cut down any trees and they tried to blend in and preserve a tranquil environment for their wildlife neighbours. In fact, each afternoon you can see a herd of wild buffalo cutting across boundaries of the property to water at the lakeside. In-house facilities treat wastewater, including sewage, making it safe to drink prior to release. The system carefully recycles solid waste in partnership with local authorities and recycling plants. The resort even safely repurposes soap so that the environment remains clean. DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort is thoughtful about the growing number of mostly young travellers who seek unique experiences and understanding local cultures. Far from the hustle and bustle of city life (Colombo is a 3 hour drive on the expressway), the hotel straddled by the Weerawila lakes is a perfect getaway for guests looking for that touch of Southern hospitality and warmth. For guests passionate about wellness, the property has curated a range of offers from a 24-hour well-equipped fitness centre to a Yoga Terrace and a rooftop Wellness Spa.
For the MICE sector, the hotel has much to offer: the resort is ideal for that dream wedding or even for thoughtful corporate events with over 10,000 square feet of meeting space. It exhibits a 7,788 square feet Grand Ballroom which can accommodate 600 guests in a banquet setting. The Grand Rajawarna ballroom and the Weaver Meeting room is equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment, and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Lake. The hotel’s dining experience offers a blend of local and international experiences and settings that reflect the closeness of nature. It has restaurants named after some popular residents at the bird sanctuary. For instance, Spoonbill is the all-day dining restaurant with a cosy tea lounge and an outdoor barbeque grill offers splendid views of the garden and Lake Weerawila. The Redshank rooftop restaurant specialises in fresh seafood from the Kirinda and Hambantota fisheries harbours located 30 minutes away from the resort. Named after the nocturnal bird Nightjar, the rooftop bar offers a panoramic view of the two lakes of Weerawila and is perfect for stargazing! The Hornbill is the resort’s pool bar and lounge offering sunshine, birdsong, and the choicest beverages at its swim-up bar. The 75-metre pool also features a kids’ pool and gazebos.
The Turnstone, designed with stone and woodwork as befitting its name, is the hotel’s main bar and lounge. With the two lakes as its backdrop, the Turnstone has a pool table, lounge area, thinker’s bar, boardroom, and karaoke lounge. “Given the present COVID-19 situation, we are offering local tourists attractive offers to make memories at DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort,” Damunupola said. The resort rolled out stringent health and safety protocols under the Hilton CleanStay Program to help guests enjoy a clean and safe experience during their stay. Paul Hutton, Vice President of Operations – South East Asia for Hilton, says the hotel chain is excited about the launch of its first DoubleTree by Hilton resort in Sri Lanka. “We are confident that DoubleTree by Hilton Weerawila Rajawarna Resort will be top of mind for those looking for an idyllic getaway together with the service delivery of a hotel brand that’s international”.