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Tourist numbers to hit normal by December – Krishan Balendra

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John Keells Holdings (JKH) expects the tourist arrival numbers to hit normal by December of this year. Booking data and growing momentum in interest suggests that the company and the broader industry would hit levels that were previously seen before COVID-19.

JKH Chairperson Krishan Balendra said, “We would have about 60-65% of the arrivals in May 2018, which is pre-COVID-19. Looking at our forward bookings and the momentum we expect by the peak season in December, tourist arrivals would be almost back to pre-C-19.”

Commenting on the increased occupancy in Colombo City Tourists Balendra said, “European tourists don’t spend that much time in Colombo. We have seen arrivals from India and the region. We saw a significant increase from the casino segment of the market.”

Balendra was speaking on May 25 at the JKH Q4 webinar for the Fiscal Year 2022/23. JKH has grown EBITDA figures by 17% compared to the same quarter last year. JKH has considerable leisure investments that have high depreciation charges.

JKH’s flagship investment Cinnamon Life is showing strong progress. Balendra said, “The hotel, the mall, and the gaming area are expected to be completed in the second half of 2024.”

JKH is also looking to select reputable foreign entities to operationalize the gaming space within the development. “We are in advanced discussions with some leading international gaming operators and we are hopeful we can finalize something soon.”

Another pivotal investment into the West Container Terminal has been proceeding ahead of schedule. “West Terminal is progressing quite well. Dredging is completed ahead of time. The first phase of the terminal will be operational from December 2024.”

Balendra assumes that inflation has passed its peak of 70% in April and is expected to be much lower in May. Balendra opined, “The IMF program is progressing well.”

Gihan Cooray reiterated JKH’s long-term commitment to remaining an investable share for foreign investors. “Our whole ESG framework requires international expertise so we can take it to the next level. We had a significant donation of Rs 100 million to the ambulance service.”

 The trend towards modern retail in the country has grown with JKH recording same-store sales growth of 18.9%, same-store footfall growth of 17%, and average basket value growth of 1.6%. Mobile phone sales have slightly dipped over the quarter.

JKH has not lined up any investments within the Colombo Port City Zone but shall be a major beneficiary as the initial legislation allows for entities that look to operate within the Zone to take up space in the immediate vicinity where JKH is one of the leading landlords.

There is hope that the Port City legislation shall be changed soon to incorporate land within the Beira Lake developments. (TP)

Monday, June 5, 2023 – 01:00











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