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Sunday, 13 February 2011

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World Cup adds glamour to H'tota



The Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Suriyawewa



Dulani Guruge

Azmi Thassim

M. Nufail Nawaz

Chandrasena in Hambantota

The Rajapaksa regime put Hambantota on the Sri Lankan map once again as a city to be visited and invested. Hosting the World Cup in Hambantota has put this one time poorest of districts in the county on the world map.

In Hambantota people were dying from Malaria and malnutrition and the lack of drinking water was one of the biggest issues. Due to sheer poverty there were organised gangs which used to rob motorists. However, in the last few decades this changed with rapid focused development taking place.

The building of the Harbour was one of the biggest projects to usher in prosperity to the region followed by the building of the second international airport, Oil tank farm, Ranmihitanne tele village, the new zoo, new administrative complex and several other development projects.

Managing Director, Guruge Hotels Dulani Guruge which own and operate Peacock Beach Hotel said that the decision to host the World Cup in Hambantota would bring unprecedented coverage to Hambantota and would boost tourism in the area.

"As soon as the decision was made to host two games in Hambantota we invested over Rs. 150 million to upgrade our 100 room property to a four star hotel and we now have 100 percent bookings. We are so happy about the investing," she said.

She said that World Cup is not only a sporting event it's the second steping stone after the opening of the harbour to bring economic benefits to the region".

"The publicity the area would get from the World Cup is unprecedented. People who never knew Hambantota would start to talk about the destination and also visit the area even after the World Cup," she said.

Guruge said that both the Canada and Kenyan teams along with the international media and officials would be staying at the hotel and this is very encouraging.

She said that they invested over Rs. 2 million for an infinity swimming pool with fibre optic lighting, a first for the region and have invested a further Rs. 1.5 million for a gymnasium. A business centre, conference facility, new waiting area, coffee shop and the upgrading of the rooms are some of the key features of this investment.

She said that the residents have already got benefits of the World Cup as their hotel alone provided new employment opportunities for over 50.

The indirect employment generation is over 200.

M. N. Nandawathi with her husband travel to Hambantota especially during week ends in their lorry to sell boiled maize at the Hambantota Town. "I do not know who is playing or what teams are participating but I only no that my business would pick up during this period as large crowds are expected to visit," she said.

"I am planning to employ six boys during the World Cup as I see a huge demand," she said.

D. S. Chandrasena who owns a three wheeler in the area said that his friends in other parts of the country ask him to book hotels for them to stay during the World Cup period. "However I cannot find a single hotel and now my friends have decided to stay in Embilipitiya."

He said that he has purchased Rs. 150 tickets and waiting to witness the two matches

M. Nufail Nawaz who plays for Hambantota Vidyalaya under 17 cricket team said he was a bit disappointed as not keenly contested games are being played in Hambantota. We would have liked to see a game that goes to the wire. Unfortunately we have been deprived of that opportunity and it is unfair for the public of Hambantota who are witnessing a big sporting event of this nature," he said.

Sarath Wickrama who sells king coconut in town does not care what teams plays. "After all it is the biggest event of the world and we are ever thankful for being given that opportunity," he said. "We also want to see stars like Murali, Sanga, Mahela and Malinga performing in Hambantota and encourage them," he said.


M. N. Nandawathi with her husband in Hambantota selling maize Pix : Shirajiv Sirimane

The fibre optic lit swimming pool at the Peacock beach Hotel.
The novel double decker bus used for excursions by the hotel
 The Hambnatota Fishing Harbour

Mohamed Nizam who owns a fishing boat said that they thought their lives and business would end after the tsunami devastation. "However due to this unprecedented development that has taken place we were able to rise again." He said that he has six in the family and all of them would watch both matches.

CEO, Hambantota District Chamber of Commence, Azmi Thassim said that the cricket World Cup is not about playing just two games. "It is a beginning of a bigger development innings." he said.

"Already over 5,000 people have found indirect employment leading to the World Cup and some of them would have enough finances to start their own businesses. Already the transport, food and hotel sectors have yielded benefits with all the hotels being booked for six days. "Due to the demand the mini hotels have also raised their prices which is something that happens when hosting the Olympics or the Football World Cup," he said.

People selling vegetables and fish also get higher prices during the event and they would reinvest.

He also said that with the Harbour there are tremendous investment opportunities and international media exposure to the destination is bound to spur top businessmen to invest in the region".

A cricket fan from Badulla, Gamunu Ariyasiri who came on Friday to purchase tickets from the Hambantota sales counter said that he hopes the traders in Hambantota would support the event. "We pass Hambantota on many occasions and have observed that even the so-called 'big time' supermarkets closed before 9 pm. This does not even happen in Jaffna and I appeal to them to keep their shops open and not make Hambantota a ghost town after 9 pm."

The South Asian Beach Games too will be hosted in Hambantota adding more value to the destination.

General Manager Peacock Beach Hotel, Nalin Fernando said that they now have two world masterpieces (Harbour and grounds) that they can be proud of. "When the international airport comes up Hambantota would be a city like no other, bustling with activity".

He also commended the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium in Suriyawewa and said it will be the second Melbourne Cricket grounds. The stadium will have a capacity to accommodate 35,000 people.

The stadium will host its first international match when Sri Lanka plays Canada on February 20 during the ICC World Cup 2011. ICC officials who visited the venue have given the green light for play.

Hosting of the Cricket World Cup has added the much needed glamour to Hambantota and it would also open new windows of opportunity to the area.

 

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