Iconic Galle Face Hotel Celebrates Sri Lanka Being Voted Lonely Planet’s No. 1 Travel Destination In The World
The legendary Galle Face Hotel, which opened in 1864 and is the oldest hotel east of Suez, welcomed the cream of the nation’s travel industry and high society to celebrate the ultimate honour: Sri Lanka being voted the No. 1 Travel Destination in the World by travel bible and tastemakers Lonely Planet.
Galle Face Hotel Chairman Sanjeev Gardiner was delighted to host Andrew Hinshelwood, Vice President, Client Solutions at Lonely Planet, based in Melbourne, who offered the gathering his insights into how Sri Lanka snatched the prestigious award, edging out a cavalcade of the planet’s destination travel icons.
Mr Gardiner said he was delighted to see Sri Lanka achieve recognition for its myriad cultural wonders and uniquely captivating offerings. “This is an amazing opportunity to showcase Sri Lanka to the world and the Galle Face Hotel is proud to play a part in celebrating this great honour as we strive to present the rich heritage of our destination in Colombo and across the country,” he said.
Mr Hinshelwood told the gathering, which included government officials, ambassadors and key players in Sri Lanka’s travel industry that he was “blown away” by the activity and development in Colombo on this, his third visit to the city.
“On my previous trips, I’ve often stood on the seafront and admired this iconic hotel, but this is the first time I have had the pleasure of staying here. Lonely Planet describes it as the Grand Dame of Colombo that faces Galle Face Green to the north and the sea to the west. The sweeping staircases recall the hotel’s opening in 1864. Comprehensive restorations have returned the former grandeur and created refined, modern hospitality.
“As I was making my way to Colombo yesterday on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight, I began thinking …what stories this grand old hotel could tell if its walls could talk. It’s certainly seen its fair share of history but stands today as a marvelous testament to Sri Lanka’s past while embracing the present.
“Indeed most travellers touring Colombo would likely not leave without paying a visit to this hotel. It truly is an icon and really a destination in itself. In 2018 and beyond it remains a unique place for tourists from all over the world to perhaps begin or end their own personal Sri Lankan odyssey. And what a marvellous destination Sri Lanka is. I’ve been invited here to celebrate Sri Lanka and acknowledge its new found place as a globally renowned tourism destination.”
‘Best in Travel’ is Lonely Planet’s highly anticipated annual collection of the best travel destinations, trends, journeys and experiences to have in the year ahead. The list – with key categories being top 10 countries, 10 cities and 10 regions – is independently selected by Lonely Planet’s team of travel experts under a series of strict criteria.
Each year, Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list starts with nominations from Lonely Planet’s vast community of editors, researchers, locals and influencers – and ultimately are decided and ranked by a panel of judges, including founder Tony Wheeler.
Mr Hinshelwood said the reasons Sri Lanka was voted number one destination included:
Sri Lanka is a destination where lots of things are happening, a destination with a lot of buzz about it – making 2019 a great time to visit.
It offers something for everyone and appeals to many types of travellers, ever important in 2019. There’s now more than ever for families, adventure, eco-tourists, foodies and wellness seekers.
Ongoing development of transport and infrastructure was a key point – certainly here in Colombo but also areas previously off limits or difficult to reach – particularly in the North – are opening up and delivering even more experiences to the traveller.
Areas that once required determination and endurance to reach are now a comfortable ride away. Just as more people are reaching more places throughout the island, so too are an increasing number of quality hotels, restaurants, sustainable tour operators and diverse experiences; meeting the rising needs. Opportunities for expanded exploration abound – water sports, whale watching; jungle hikes, safaris; cooking lessons and village homestays to name a few.
Sri Lanka ranks highly and is creating great offerings for the emerging and trending wellness travel sector.
“Already notable to intrepid travellers for its mix of religions and cultures, its timeless temples, its rich and accessible wildlife, its growing surf scene and its people who defy all odds by their welcome and friendliness after decades of civil conflict, this is a country revived,” says Lonely Planet author Ethan Gelber in the Best in Travel 2019 book.
“Unmissable experiences” include wildlife, such as the 300-strong elephant gathering at Minneriya national park, thousand-year old Buddhist monuments, and hiking and train travel through the country’s tea plantations.
Tourist visits to Sri Lanka have increased since the end of the 26-year conflict, from 447,890 in 2009 to an all time high of 2.1 million last year, a figure the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority hopes to double by 2020.
Robert C. Hauck, the hotel’s General Manager and Area Vice President, said guests had long appreciated the Galle Face Hotel’s rich heritage and classical ambience.
Unique in Asia’s hospitality industry, Mr Gardiner’s association with the Galle Face Hotel goes back 100 years. In the past 50 years there have been only two chairmen, illustrating the stability of a property which has become an institution in the destination. It is also passionately independent, having repeatedly resisted approaches from many top international hotel brands and has hosted the cream of the world’s royalty, as well as famous global figures including Che Guevara, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vivian Leigh and Roger Moore.