- Jetwing celebrates golden jubilee of its first step into the hospitality sector
By Venessa Anthony
Jetwing Sea Hotel in Negombo, which began life as the Seashells Hotel in 1972, celebrated its golden jubilee last Saturday (10). The event was graced by Minister of Tourism and Lands Harin Fernando, Chaudhary Group Nepal/CG Corporation Global Chairman and Jetwing Sea Co-owner Dr. Binod Chaudhary, along with stalwarts of the hospitality, tourism, and airline industries, and State sector organisations.
Seashells Hotel marked the first foray into the hospitality sector for Herbert Cooray, the founding chairman of Jetwing Hotels. Working as a building contractor at the time, Herbert Cooray was commissioned to build the hotel for G.E.B. Milhuissen in a bid to increase the room inventory in Negombo, a destination that was quickly becoming popular in Europe. The endeavour was proposed by Göran Olsson of Vingresor, a Swedish travel agent whose recommendations led to Herbert Cooray concurrently starting work on the Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel, which would later become Jetwing Blue.
Seashells Hotel opened its doors in 1972 with 40 rooms.
A walk down memory lane
In conversation with The Morning Brunch, Jetwing Symphony PLC Chairman Hiran Cooray shared the story behind Jetwing Sea.
“This property was the third or fourth hotel to be built in Negombo, way back in 1972,” he informed us.
“At that time, the hotel only operated from November to April, the European winter,” he recalled, adding that, however, within a few years of Seashells Hotel’s opening, Negombo, and Sri Lanka as a whole, became known as a year-round destination for travellers, and tourism really started off in earnest.
Reminiscing on the long journey of the hotel, Hiran Cooray informed us that in 1978, with Milhuissen contemplating retirement, the property was purchased by Herbert Cooray and his lifelong friends George Ondaatjie, Lucian Perera, and Gamini Divitotawela, and included Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel in the humble beginnings of Jetwing’s portfolio.
Further development in 1988 added 28 rooms to the resort, bringing the total to 68. The stake held by Ondaatjie, Perera, and Divitotawela was purchased by Hayleys and, in 2009, purchased by Dr. Binod Chaundhary, who saw the promise that Sri Lanka held for tourism.
He also proudly exclaimed that back in 2011, Jetwing took the initiative to completely transform the hotel, adding modern touches and timeless elegance. Back then, the hotel was known as Seashells Hotel, and in 2011, once acquired by Hiran Cooray, underwent a full transformation, becoming Jetwing Sea – the hotel we all know and love today. He went on to explain that the original 40 rooms made way for a new deluxe wing and a second pool added to the resort. “Today, we are blessed with a lovely beachfront, and we continue to add value to the hotel and the Negombo beach – one of the nicest beaches in the country.”
Sharing his views, Hiran Cooray told us that over the years, they’ve added many innovative experiences for guests at the hotel and hope to continue providing top-notch hospitality to their customers, regardless of whether they are locals or foreigners.
“We pride ourselves on our hospitality and do not plan to compromise on it any time soon. Look forward to more exciting ventures from Jetwing,” he told us.
Speaking on their partnership and co-ownership, Dr. Chaudhary remarked that they entered into a partnership with Jetwing at a very tough time for the country. Nevertheless, seeing how he and Hiran Cooray seemed to share the same vision for the future of the country and the tourism industry, he said this was the natural next step for him.
“I had no hesitation in investing in Jetwing Sea. Over the years, the hotel has brought economic development and employment opportunities to Negombo while bolstering tourism in the region, and I am looking forward to many more successful years with Jetwing Sea,” he shared at the anniversary event.
Tourism Minister Harin Fernando also sharing his views said it is no secret that Sri Lanka has repeatedly been put through trials and tribulations, but as a country, we continue to be resilient and work our way through challenges. He firmly affirmed that he was confident that tourism would return to normalcy, and thanked Jetwing Hotels for working tirelessly to put the country back on the map.
What’s next for Jetwing Sea?
Currently, Jetwing Sea features 83 rooms, comprising two suites, 53 deluxe rooms, and 28 superior rooms, the panoramic Sky Spa on the rooftop, a fully equipped gymnasium, a spacious seafront restaurant Café C, and “Lellama”, a speciality seafood restaurant.
When asked what more we can expect from Jetwing Sea in the future, Hiran Cooray told us that the organisation had no concrete plans as yet, but is looking into potentially expanding the property.
In the immediate future, however, Jetwing Sea is ready to take on the festive season at full throttle.
“We have many exciting events and activities happening for the season – not just at Jetwing Sea but at all of our properties,” he shared, adding that they are already reaching maximum occupancy and are prepared for a bustling season.