‘I have learned to make the best of difficult times.’
studied management and marketing in the UK. After her first job in a Sri Lankan hotel, she built a boutique hotel on Lake Tissa herself. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Good Life X (GLX) programme implemented by GIZ has been helping the entrepreneur develop her hotel, Tara Watergate, despite the crisis. The support has been provided through the COVID-19 tourism package of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
How has the pandemic changed your life and work?
I opened the hotel a year before the pandemic broke out. It had made a good start, but the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday 2019 marked our first setback. From March 2020 onwards, guests stayed away again because of COVID-19. I had to reduce my staff to five employees, whom I continued to pay in full. Now Sri Lanka is being shaken by a severe economic crisis. The future is uncertain, but I have learned to brave difficult times and make the best of them. In fact I’m going to open another hotel.
You were part of GIZ’s Enterprise Evolver programme. How did you benefit from it as an entrepreneur?
The GLX programme selected my hotel at the end of 2020 as one of 15 small and medium-sized Sri Lankan enterprises in the tourism sector. The six-month coaching was a real ray of hope. I received financial support for a photo shoot, a telephone system and hygiene equipment. The discussions in the resulting network and with my mentor are still invaluable.
In your hotel, you focus on agritourism and promote local women. How did this come about?
During the pandemic, I suddenly had the time to try out new ideas. But I also felt the need to help others overcome the crisis. We cooperate with a local farmer to grow rice, vegetables and fruit on a hectare of land. We share the yield with him and the women harvest workers, and we use some of it ourselves. I also set up the online shop Jollycrafts for women street vendors. It enables them to market their basketry in the capital when there are no tourists. My guests benefit from activities such as harvesting, cooking and basket weaving - and travel for a cause.
The COVID-19 tourism package of the German Federal Government aims at developing a more resilient and sustainable tourism landscape in times of crisis. The measures are closely aligned with the needs of local people.