Anuradhapura is growing fast as a tourist destination. Hotels, motels and guest houses are mushrooming in this historic city. But just a handful of hoteliers and other
entrepreneurs are concerned about preserving nature when constructing buildings in this city. Hotelier B Chandrasri is hell-bent on safeguarding the environment when he constructs a building, thanks to the artist within him. At present, he is a contended man, being the owner of two echo-friendly boutique hotels operating in Anuradhapura.
Chandrasiri decided to get a head start in life and migrated to Italy when he was 18 years old. There he met a philanthropist who spotted his drawing skills and offered to help him generously. Chandrasiri was at a hostel church festival and, like everybody else, was there to share his experiences with others. Halfway into the festival he began to draw the image of a bell tower, which was prominently visible in the vicinity. This philanthropist was there and befriended him after seeing the brilliance of this artist. “That was the turning point in my life. He offered to finance me through the process of educating myself in art and architecture,” is how Chandrasiri begin his interview with Nation.
He has fond memories of living and working in Italy. Though there was help, Chandrasiri could only complete two out of a five year course that was offered to him at an open university. He picked up the missing parts of these lessons in art by self-education. After completing his stint in Italy he returned to Sri Lanka with the intention of opening a hotel.
His father YB Piyadasa had already located a land for him in Anuradhapura for the venture. His love for architecture and hotels got him started in the hospitality trade. His skills in art were put to maximum use when building the two hotels – Palm Garden Village Hotel and Forest Rock Garden Resort – he currently operates. Chandrasiri’s hotels and the facilities they provide have helped turn Anuradhapura from a place of transit to a place which tourists now consider as an overnight.
Why did he think of Anuradhapura as the place to pursue his dream of putting up a hotel? “Many think of the sea when the thought springs to build a hotel. I considered Anuradhapura because of three factors. It is home to the eight religious sites of worship (Atamasthana), the Anuradhapura Town, the Railway Town and the history of the place associated with Kuveni,” explained Chandrasiri.
His hotels have won awards for their beauty and the efforts taken to protect environment (Green Award 2010). He was the first person to build a three-star hotel in Anuradhapura. “There is this village mentality to oppose anything new that’s coming up, but I was able to change minds about the hotel industry. At present my hotels employ about 150 to 200 people and a good number of villagers are among them. Now, some hoteliers in the area are trying to copy my concepts. This is why I said that though there was opposition at the inception, now there is support for me because many others in the area want to have hotels like mine,” he said.
Chandrasiri said that he makes it a point to carry out construction work with the ‘building language’ in mind. “Building language is something that adds to the aura of a place. Buildings can control people. For an example, when a person passes the old parliament building, he or she feels both pride and the urge to maintain discipline,” he said.
This hotelier stresses on the importance of preserving heritage, culture and environment when pursuing his businesses in the hospitality trade. He might pull down structures that are newly built if he is not satisfied with them. He loves change and encourages everybody involved in the hotel industry to make ‘change’ the air they breathe. However, there are certain changes he wishes will be made in the hotel industry which will enhance the opportunities in doing business with foreign tourists.
“Sri Lanka has created negative publicity as a tourist destination where tourists are vulnerable to drown in the sea, get beaten up at night clubs and fall from mountains. We must change all this soon, if we are to compete with other tourist destinations in the world,” said Chandrasiri.