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Aitken Spence
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Ladies first! Aitken Spence Hotels invests Rs. 70 Mn in ladies’ accommodation facility at Kandalama

The tourism industry generates income and employment worldwide. According to global statistics published by the World Travel and Tourism Council in March 2019, 1 in 10 jobs overall in 2018 and 1 in 5 new jobs created over the last five years were attributed to the tourism industry. It has also created a plethora of direct and indirect opportunities across Sri Lanka. However, similar to global statistics, female representation in the tourism sector is considerably low.

When more women work, economies grow. Enabling economic participation for women pays enormous dividends for families, communities and economies. However, the gender parity in the workforce is the widest in emerging economies such as Sri Lanka due to many reasons. These reasons could range from social and cultural limitations to dearth of required skills.

Premier hospitality chain, Aitken Spence Hotels has worked over the years to bridge the gap of required skills among youth. In their efforts to create and promote a conducive work environment as an equal opportunity employer, Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC opened a well-equipped ladies’ accommodation facility at its most iconic property, Heritance Kandalama. This is yet another benchmark in the tourism and hospitality industry as this iconic property marks 25 years.

“Aitken Spence Hotels have always been a Company that valued and promoted equality and non-discrimination,” Aitken Spence PLC Director, Head of Tourism & Leisure, and Chairperson of Aitken Spence Hotels Management, Ms. Stasshani Jayawardena said “The Company’s decision to invest Rs. 70 Mn in infrastructure is a reiteration of its commitment to enable greater access to our immediate communities to opportunities in the tourism and hospitality industry, and our effort to ensure women also benefit from those opportunities. We are confident that our proactive efforts towards enhancing accommodation and amenities will increase the female representation within our workforce.”

The hotel maintains a close relationship with its immediate community and regularly conducts educational programmes at local schools to enhance skills and knowledge among youth. With their employment policies giving priority to local applicants, over 60% of its workforce is from the community within 35-40km radius. Families of new recruits are invited to observe the working environment at all properties to allow them the peace of mind of their child’s safety and wellbeing.

“Competitiveness of Sri Lanka’s tourism and hospitality workforce weighs heavily on promoting employment for women and youth. Encouraging higher involvement from these two demographics, however, remains a challenge. Young women are hesitant to pursue a career in tourism and hospitality due to a myriad of socio-cultural views. It is our belief that all efforts must be made to welcome more women into the industry and to create a working environment where they feel safe and comfortable; thereby making a positive ripple effect on the economy.” She asserted that the ladies’ accommodation is but one area of the Company’s investment towards attracting a more diverse workforce.

The newly launched facility can accommodate over 40 females and offers three room categories – for Executives, Supervisors and Non-Executives. Comparable in design to a guest room, this ladies’ accommodation is fully equipped with all amenities for the comfort of the employees. The facility also consists of two common lounge areas designed for rest and relaxation.

This initiative is testament to the company’s commitment to empower greater female representation in the hospitality and tourism industry. Currently at Aitken Spence Hotels, 15% of the Management is represented by women, with 24% in the Executive cadre and 7% at Associate level. Aitken Spence Hotel Holdings PLC has set an ambitious target to achieve 20% female representation by 2020 and hopes to continue improving on that. This initiative to build accommodation facilities for the female workforce will be gradually rolled out at the hotel chain’s other owned properties.

As one of the first signatories of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles and a trendsetter in the industry, Aitken Spence is confident that the efforts thus unrolled will bear fruit in the future by setting a precedent for establishing tourism as a tool for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Heritance Kandalama ladies with their parents, Aitken Spence PLC Director, Head of Tourism & Leisure, and Chairperson of Aitken Spence Hotels Management Ms. Stasshani Jayawardena, General Manager Mr. Priyan Wijerathne

Exterior

Indoor lounge area

Outdoor lounge area