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John Keells secures $175 mln from IFC to boost businesses in Maldives, Sri Lanka

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John Keells Holding (JKH) has secured a $175 million investment from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to fund planned expansion and refurbishment of the group’s hotels in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and expand its supermarket chain in Sri Lanka.

The $175 million long term investment is IFC’s largest in Sri Lanka in 50 years of work in the country and will be the first supporting investments in the Maldives in a decade.

The move by the World Bank’s private sector arm is intended to provide JKH the flexibility and agility to fund its investments in an optimal manner, while providing additional support to the group’s liquidity position.

“I believe partnering with an internationally reputed financial institution such as IFC, particularly at this juncture of time, is a vote of confidence for JKH and the country, at large,” Krishan Balendra, Chairman and CEO of JKH, was quoted in a statement, as saying.

“Sri Lanka’s growth prospects in the medium to long-term remain positive and we are confident that, as always, we have the strength and resolve to keep moving forward with our investment pipeline despite the current period of unprecedented challenges where the outlook is now more positive.”

With tourism being a vital area for both Sri Lanka and Maldives, the investment will help create much needed direct and indirect jobs as well as generate considerable foreign exchange.

In addition, the investment will be used to support the group’s plans to open about 100 new supermarkets in Sri Lanka over the next three to five years, with a focus on less developed regions – a move that will benefit micro, small and medium sized enterprises as well as farmers who will become part of the supply chains to the new stores.

“IFC support will enable JKH, as one of the largest and most reputable businesses in Sri Lanka, to continue to invest, and ultimately create more jobs and work for small and medium sized businesses, despite the challenging economic headwinds and uncertainty over COVID-19,” Amena Arif, IFC Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, said.

“It will also send a strong and positive message to the investor community that capital investments in Sri Lanka and Maldives are viable at this challenging time and are important to help the economies and the community to build resilience for the future.”

The investment, which is part of IFC’s broader efforts to create quality jobs in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, will also boost the supply of “green” hotels in the Maldives to meet growing demand.

JKH will adopt IFC’s green building standards – EDGE Buildings – for its newly refurbished hotels in the Maldives, aimed at providing a demonstration effect to other hotel operators.

In the Maldives, tourism has accounted for nearly three-quarters of the country’s total GDP, while in Sri Lanka, tourism was, prior to the pandemic, the third largest and fastest growing source of foreign currency in the country.

Sri Lankan conglomerate John Keells, under its Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts brand, runs four resorts in Maldives: Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa, Cinnamon Dhonveli, Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon, and the recently-opened Cinnamon Velifushi Maldives.

Photo: Cinnamon Velifushi Maldives, the latest resort in Maldives by John Keells.

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Maldives celebrates arrival of 2024’s 1 millionth tourist

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Maldives on Thursday welcomed the one millionth tourist to visit this year.

The one millionth tourist is a Thai named Sutapa Amonwivat, who arrived from Singapore with her husband and two children. This is her second visit to Maldives.

Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) and the Ministry of Tourism gave a warm welcome to Sutapa at the Velana International Airport (VIA) Thursday afternoon. She was welcomed at the VIA by tourism minister Ibrahim Faisal, MMPRC Managing Director Ibrahim Shiury and senior officials of various relevant agencies.

After welcoming her with traditional offerings, she was presented with various gifts by the ministry, MMPRC, customs, immigration, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA).

Maldives reached one million tourists in June, three weeks earlier than last year. The number of tourists reached one million on July 16, 2023.

Maldives expects to reach 2 million tourists this year.

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New air route connects Chongqing to Maldives

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Chongqing Airlines on Monday began its inaugural flights to Maldives.

The Chongqing-Male route, scheduled three times a week, is expected to strengthen the bonds between China and the Maldives, opening up exciting new opportunities for tourism and cultural exchange.

The inaugural flight was welcomed upon its arrival at Velana International Airport (VIA) in Maldives, where local officials and tourism representatives expressed their enthusiasm for this new development.

“We warmly welcome our friends from China to our beautiful islands. This new connection strengthens our bonds and opens up new opportunities for tourism,” the tourism ministry said on X.

Maldives currently welcomes four airlines from China, including China Eastern, Beijing Capital Airlines, Xiamen Airlines.

In January, Maldives government urged tourism stakeholders in both Maldives and China to ramp up efforts to restore China’s position as the primary source market for Maldives tourism, a status held before the onset of Covid-19.

China, being the largest source market for Maldives tourism before the pandemic, saw a resumption of tourist arrivals from January 2023 after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic. In 2023, the Maldives welcomed 187,118 Chinese tourists, marking a significant recovery in numbers. This year, the Maldives has welcomed the most number of tourists from China, with over 107,940 or 11.5 percent of total arrivals by June 12. 

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CROSSROADS Maldives Introduces Weixin Pay at resorts for seamless guest experience

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CROSSROADS Maldives has introduced WeChat Pay, widely known as Weixin Pay in China, across its world-class resorts, SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotel Maldives. This payment option is made available to enhance the convenience and overall experience for guests from China, making their stay in the Maldives more enjoyable and hassle-free.

Understanding the needs of the diverse guests, CROSSROADS Maldives has integrated WeChat Pay into operations, allowing guests from China to easily and securely conduct transactions using a payment method familiar to them. The introduction of WeChat Pay is a testament to CROSSROADS Maldives’ dedication to enhancing guest satisfaction by offering exceptional experiences at every turn. What is also expected through this initiative is that the guests could benefit from better foreign exchange rates, translating to better savings on their expenditures during their stay.

The option is available for guests in-house conveniently at both resorts as well as across the Marina at CROSSROADS Maldives where a wider variety of unparalleled dining and retail experiences are available for all guests. The day visitors from China will also therefore equally benefit from this new introduction at the Maldives’ premier multi-island integrated leisure destination.

SAii Lagoon Maldives, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a vibrant tropical escape that offers unique and locally inspired experiences. The resort features spacious rooms and villas, a variety of dining options, and an array of recreational activities designed to cater to the desires of modern travellers. Guests can escape to the island’s SAiisational natural beauty, enjoy water sports, and indulge in spa treatments, all while relishing the personalised service that defines Hilton’s Curio Collection.

Hard Rock Hotel Maldives brings the iconic Hard Rock spirit to the tranquil shores of the Maldives. This family-friendly resort offers a perfect blend of relaxation and entertainment, featuring music-inspired experiences, live performances, and the brand’s signature amenities. With luxurious accommodations, diverse dining options, and a plethora of activities for all ages, Hard Rock Hotel Maldives ensures an unforgettable holiday experience for every guest.

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