Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe last week declared that it was only in Sri Lanka that one could savour Shangri-La in Serendipity.
He made this remark during his speech at the gala dinner to mark the opening of Shangri-La Hotel, Colombo with 500 guestrooms and suites and 41 serviced apartments on Thursday.
“There are many Shangri-Las in the world, many of them of luxurious standards, but none of them will have the spot that Colombo’s Shangri-la has,” the Premier said, adding that both Sri Lanka and Shangri-La were lucky to achieve this. “Shangri-La in Serendipity, where else can you get it but Sri Lanka, it is the only place in the world,” he added.
Shangri -La is a fictional place described in a 1933 novel titled Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Shangri-La is referred to as a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land. “Shangri-La is a Himalayan utopia, Serendipity is calmness and happiness. So you (Shangri-La Hotel) have got it twice over - Shangri La in Serendipity,” emphasised Wickremesinghe, adding that the national unity Government led by President Maithripala Sirisena, who was the Chief Guest at the formal opening of the hotel, was doing its best to secure calmness and happiness.
Stressing the importance of the location, the Prime Minister said Shangri-La Colombo overlooked the bay at which Lorenzo de Almeida brought the first Portuguese ship and the hotel also overlooks Galle Face Green which has existed from the British period. “This is a unique place,” he added.
The Premier thanked Shangri-La for investing in Sri Lanka, which he described as the heart of Serendipity, and noted the entry of Shangri-La had added “more than a spoonful of sugar for the hoteliers.”
“Shangri-La is entering at a time when Sri Lanka has resolved to become like in the ancient days - the hub of the Indian Ocean. Shangri-La has hotels in two leading ports of the Indian Ocean - Hambantota and Colombo,” Wickremesinghe said.
In his speech, the Premier also briefly referred to how the Government was trying to make Sri Lanka a hub for business, tourism, logistics, manufacturing and financial services. He also highlighted some of the infrastructure development taking place to improve connectivity.
“Tourism is one of the focus sectors with large resorts between Colombo and Mattala, some spanning 500-600 acres. We want to make Sri Lanka a paradise for tourists and we have started this process. Many people say tourism is a low-hanging fruit but it is important to nurture that fruit carefully,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the 2018 Budget unveiled last week had provided a big boost.
Fresh from a yet another stay in Shangri-La hotel in Singapore over the previous weekend, the Premier earlier on his speech recalled that when James Hilton wrote Shangri-La in the early 1930s he wrote of the Himalayan utopia, a concept which caught the fancy of a world trapped in tensions that led to World War II.
“Where was this Shangri-La? President Roosevelt started it by naming his retreat Shangri-La which is today known as Camp David. But who found out or who located Shangri-La. It was none other than Robert Kuok,” said Wickremesinghe, referring to the founder of Shangri La hotels.
Noting that Shangri-La was a new concept of luxury hotels, a level of comfort not found elsewhere, the Prime Minister thanked the Shangri-La Group and Robert Kuok and family for advancing the concept.