The 1,342nd Forbes US dollar billionaire in the world, Binod Chaudhary, yesterday said that he has ‘full confidence in the Sri Lankan system’ to make investments and set up businesses in the island nation and stressed fast tracking of official procedures will further enhance the business-friendly environment.
Chaudhary, a Nepali national, has already made estimated US $ 200 million investments in the booming Sri Lankan leisure sector and is bracing to set up a US $ 75 to US $ 100 cement manufacturing plant in the northern peninsula of the country to reinvigorate the war-torn province.
“My affair with Sri Lanka started 17 years back when the country was going through a rough patch. I was not bothered by the conflict it was going through at the time because I sensed its potential,” Chaudhary said.
The 50:50 joint venture company Chaudhary has set up with India’s Taj group owns the controlling stake in Sri Lanka’s Taj Hotel and also owns resorts in the Maldives.
His group also has invested in two Jetwing properties—Jetwing Sea in Negombo and Jetwing Viluyana in Sigiriya—and currently is in the process of investing further US $ 15 million in another 85-room hotel Jetwing is planning in Kandy.
“This is going to be the best five-star hotel in Kandy,” Chaudhary said.
Meanwhile, he is planning to bring his upmarket Zinc Journeys brand to Sri Lanka. He is currently in the process of refurbishing three bungalows in Hatton with 12 rooms to be developed as upmarket boutique lodges.
According to Chaudhary, the bungalows in Hatton will try to emulate the up market wildlife lodges in Africa and will offer packages to high-end tourists at premium prices.
His leisure arm already has a partnership with a leading wildlife operator in Africa and has a clientele that they believe will accompany them to Sri Lanka.
“We don’t just sell beds to our customers, we sell experiences,” Chaudhary stressed.
Zinc Journeys already operates four such properties in India and they charge around 30,000 Indian rupees per person for one night.
Son of Binod Chaudhary, Zinc Hospitality Executive Director Rahul Chaudhary said the company is exploring a number of other suitable locations—Vilpaththu, Sigiriya, Weligama, Unawatuna, Galle and Wadduwa—to expand its leisure sector presence in the island nation.
“Sri Lanka has a vibrant tourism market. This is the time to take its marketing pitch to the next level,” Chaudhary asserted.
Chaudhary’s conglomerate encompasses close to 85 companies in 19 countries with interests in banking, food, real estate, cement, power, electronics, education, Ayurveda, telecom, retail networks and of course, hotels.