The Aitken Spencer hotel is a successful project that has achieved its purpose and goals beyond the initial expectations. Like many projects undertaken in ecologically sensitive places, the project initially generated controversy and invoked resistance among the population of Kandalama community.
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However, the current picture speaks differently about the attitude of the people of Kandalama towards the projects and the awards and recognitions too are a proof that the hotel has lived to its pre construction billing as environmental friendly.
The hotel has engaged the surrounding community in different ways which has won their trust and ensured continued support. Corporate social responsibility activities like characterize the current partnership between the people and the project management. First priority job offers to the local youths, scholarships and study centers have ensured the villagers gain first hand from hotel business.
Also, the fact that minimal environmental damage has occurred in the environment where the hotel is situated coupled with green waste management techniques have ensured critical support from the stakeholders including employees and even guests.
The hotel looks set to continue with the policy of involving the locals in its operations and pursuing green initiatives to conserve the environment and also to cut costs involved in waste disposal.
Though there was minimal damage to the environment in Kandalama, the bottom-line remains that the advantages the environment has gained from the project far more exceeds the negative impacts. A different location in Sri Lanka could have undergone changes same way Kandalama did. The time and careful planning that the hotel management ensured minimal damage to the surrounding.
The policies that were adopted ensured more merits than demerits for the environment. Given that people anywhere in the country could have raised objections to the environment, Aitken Spencer Hotel management could have made the same adjustments to suit to the community needs and concerns. Therefore, building the hotel anywhere else could have been beneficial to the environment.
However, it is difficult to say for sure if the construction in another place could have been better. The current situation in Kandalama is good. The policies and management practices that have been adopted by the hotel leadership could have been applied in another place just like Kandalama.
Improved Quality of Life
The construction of the hotel came with many advantages for the locals than they had anticipated. The social and community development initiatives that the hotel management put in place helped in greatly turning around the lives of the villagers in Kandalama (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 8). The strategies targeted sustainability by focusing on quality, productivity and corporate social responsibility.
The quality of life has further been boosted by the bottom up approach with heavy grassroots involvement. The Social and Environmental committee of the hotel implemented projects that touched on public works, education, healthcare, community projects and the environment. Many locals have secured employment, their literacy levels have improved and the environment is still preserved.
Perhaps the biggest benefit that the people of Kandalama have had so far is the employment that has come with the setting up of the hotel. The resort has in place a policy to recruit 60% of its staff locally from a radius of 35 miles. Some of the locals who had joined the business in its early days have even risen to the rank of managers giving it a strong local feel on the staff.
Locals now enjoy better roads built through the funds contributed by the hotel. There is plenty of water available to schools through the wells drilled by the resort’s support. The village population and the schools also enjoy electricity that was brought to the area thanks to the construction of the hotel.
Provision of healthcare is another benefit that the people have enjoyed from establishment of the Hotel in Kandalama. The local population has benefited from the donation of numerous pairs of spectacles by the hotel. Besides, there have been various health campaigns involving glaucoma testing, blood donations and major hospitals repairs thanks to the donations of the Kandalama resort (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 8).
Before its establishment, the local population faired badly in their international language skills especially English. However that did not deter the management from employing the locals while providing them with the necessary assistance to learn the language.
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Educational facilities that have been developed include libraries, an English Language training centre and also a home science theatre. Locals have enrolled in these centers where they are trained in different disciplines equipping them with the necessary skills to work in the hotel and elsewhere. Besides, there have been donations of books, toys and other supplies and equipment.
They have employed professionals to coach for sports and sports (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 8). Various sponsorships of exhibitions, debates and art competitions while providing schools with maintainace and repairs grants (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 8).
Community projects focusing on the sensitive and social needs of the community of Kandalama have been commissioned by the hotel, greatly improving the lives of the people. Charitable events such as clean up campaigns, hosting of orphans and disabled people and soldiers from the Sri Lankan war have characterized the community activities that have impacted widely on the community.
There are also the donations of housing equipment to the poor, building houses for homeless villagers, and provision of maintainace to building works to temples and other public places.
The environment that had generated controversy at the beginning of the projects was also given priority. Besides the locals enjoying the benefits highlighted above, there environment got constant care through the hotels, corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The main advantage here is the continuous monitoring of the environment that did not exist before, a boost to the people who rely on it for their survivals and religious needs.
The archaeological reserves have been cleaned up while more trees have been donated and planted in the available spaces of the forest. The local population has gained through continuous education on environmental awareness by holding events in public schools. The waste that used to be disposed wholly is now turned into composite waste through the 3R’s and 7R’s management systems (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 9).
There are other cash donations that from the hotel guests and management to the local community. Other items that have been donated include lunch packets for the needy people and for school children, curtains and mattresses to hospitals, roofing materials for families and hospitals.
Effectiveness of the Environmental protection systems
The success of any environment protection measures can only be determined if its judged against the original concerns, how they were addressed and how the outcomes were. The concerns were; deforestation, soil erosion and increase in the production of solid waste in the environment.
Very few trees were cut to make way for the construction of the hotel In fact the architect had to modify the hotel design to make sure very few trees were cut during the construction. There were no trees cut. Where necessary, trees were relocated using the “the root ball” technique that ensured trees survived in their new locations (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 4).
Water did not reduce in the village since forests were not destroyed and the architect’s decided to sink tube wells to access ground water. Even then caution was taken to ensure the vibrations did not harm the environment in any way, especially the soil. This water proved much easier to treat and was a lot more pure which required less energy to treat.
Waste management was one of the areas where success was recorded. Initially the focus was on the 3R techniques while later on, the focus shifted to the 7R technique. Through these techniques, recycling has ensured the Kandalama place is solid waste free and almost 100% of the refuse is reused or processes to more useful forms of waste that is beneficial to the community.
“Building the Aitken Spence Hotel increased tourism while having little impact on the local environment and improving the local economy.”
The above statement pretty much summarizes the whole case study about the Kandalama resort. Tourism in the Kandalama and Sri Lanka in general increased after the lull in violence and the construction of facilities like the Kandalama Hotel.
Many guests arrived in Sri Lanka and used the facility a clear sign that tourism improved after the construction. For instance, there was a group of 135 guests from Lebanon who had visited the place and greatly helped in renovating a school besides donating money to support it.
The environment suffered little damage and the waste management initiatives taken after the hotel started its operations ensured an almost zero negative impact on the environment. No trees were cut during and after the construction.
The tank that supplied water to the farmers was spared as the hotel sought alternative means of obtaining water and the sacred places of the Monks and Buddhists were unaffected during and after the construction (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 5). There was no waste dumped in the village since all was recycled or reused in the hotel and the village.
The hotel management formed various committees that sought environmental friendly practices on areas such as water usage, air and sound pollution, solid waste management, ecosystem management and social and cultural development (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 8). These committees were responsible for the positive developments that the environment underwent during the construction and after the completion of the project.
An environmental management system was integrated into the hotel’s operations and financial management systems highlighting the importance of conserving the environment to the managers and staff. They were trained to incorporate environment conservation into their daily routines (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 8).
The local economy too improved tremendously after the hotel was constructed in Kandalama. Many youths from the village secured jobs while access to basic amenities like electricity and water was improved. Basic infrastructure like roads, schools and hospitals greatly improved the literacy an d health of the population that in turn helped boost the economy of the region (Geok & Buche, 2008, p 9).
A SWOT analysis on the Kandalama hotel is necessary to shed some light on the direction and future of the business in Sri Lanka.
There are many advantages that play to the hotel’s favor and which easily gives the business an upper hand in the tourism sector in Kandalama and the country generally. The friendliness of the surrounding community towards the business is one such advantage. Initially the people were opposed to the project on the grounds that it was going disrupt the natural system and the way of life of the people.
However, their change of heart and eventual embracing of the business became a plus to the hotel. The locals were happy with the integration strategies and community development initiatives that the management pursued. Any expansion plans the business may have are therefore likely to enjoy goodwill from the community given that they have already proves their worthiness.
The green initiatives put in place to manage the environment are also another strength that Kandalama hotel enjoys in the area. They have helped the hotel cut costs in waste management practices and also helped in the conservation of the environment. Any project they may have on the cards will not depend on initiatives that will start from scratch hence a strength that can be utilized.
Though the hotel has many advantages, some factors may not play to its favor. There is risk of creating overdependence among the surrounding population. Any withdrawal of the policies that the locals consider beneficial to them may lead to a backlash.
It will be difficult to change the policies that benefit whether they make business sense or not. Compared to other hotels that have not deeply integrated with the surrounding population and can therefore make decisions without fear of backlash, Kandalama hotel is at a disadvantage.
There are many spots in the country that are underdeveloped or completely undeveloped and offer good prospects for tourists. The hotel can develop the vast areas of the country that have tourism potential. Because of the success of the project, the authorities are likely to agree to such a project.
Though conserving the environment, there is a threat of the environmental factors dictating the direction of the business too much. It is almost impossible for hotel management to modify the hotel by eliminating part of the environment where it stands, even if the modification is absolutely necessary.
The construction of Kandalama hotel can be termed as a success and an exemplary way of involving corporate socials responsibility and business. Its serves to demonstrate how businesses can involve the population to ensure success is achieved and both financial and social goals are achieved.
Geok, B & Buche, I. (2008). Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings Plc of Sri Lanka: A sustainable tourism as competitive strategy (B). Heritance Kandalama: Asian Business Centre.