The Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) formerly known as the Ceylon Hotel School held its 37th Graduation Ceremony at the BMICH in Colombo recently. A significant feature of this year's graduation was that approximately 100 students passed out with the Diploma in Tourism and Hotel Management. This is the highest ever number to graduate in one batch since SLITHM was established in 1964.
Minister of Tourism Development, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs, Hon. John Amaratunga was the Chief Guest while Mr. Desmond Fernando, a graduate of the first batch of the Ceylon Hotel School was the Guest of Honour at the colorful yet elegant graduation ceremony and prize giving. Tourism Ministry Secretary, Mr. Janaka Sugathadasa, Additional Secretaries, Hotel School Chairman, Mr. Sunil Dissanayake, Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Mr. Paddy Withana and other officials participated in the event.
Speaking at the event Minister Amaratunga noted that SLITHM Graduates command the highest respect in the hotel industry not only in Sri Lanka but all over the world. He reminded the new graduates of the responsibility they have to maintain the good name the institution has earned through the years. He said Sri Lankans are a very hospitable people by nature and this hospitality begins with the famous Sri Lankan smile. He called upon the new graduates to make this smile the trademark of our hospitality. “This simple act will take the message to the world that Sri Lanka is a friendly country. People love to travel to countries whose people are friendly and courteous.”
Minister Amaratunga added, “Today our hospitality sector directly employs around 150,000 individuals. This number will double to 300,000 by the year 2020 to service the 4 million visitors we are targeting. The national room inventory which is around 20,000 at present will also increase to 45,000 by 2020. Based on my instructions, SLITHM has doubled its intake of students from 3,200 last year to 6,000 students this year. This has been done with the introduction of new courses and the setting up of new satellite schools in key tourist locations. Rather than waiting for our youth to come to us, we are now going to the youth. Since I took over we have opened three new satellite hotel schools in Hambantota, Passikudah and Negombo, and we will be opening another school in Polonnaruwa shortly.”
The Minister also praised the SLITHM Chairman Sunil Dissanayake and the team of lecturers for their dedication and commitment even though they were not that well rewarded financially. He commended their resolve to put country before self at a time their services were highly in demand in the industry.
“World class hotel chains are coming in to the country and we have to have world class personnel to work in these hotels. The government subsidizes up to around 75 percent of the actual course fee of the SLITHM students. They should keep this in mind and always be ready to help the country,” he said.
Mr. Sugathadasa in his speech drew attention to the government’s focus on training the youth to take up roles in the rapidly growing hospitality industry. He said the SLITHM which is the main arm of the government tasked with this role will continue to develop and invest in its network of satellite schools spread across the country to produce and develop the skills required by the industry.
Mr. Fernando took the audience down memory lane to the very beginnings of the Ceylon Hotel School. He recalled the tough times the students faced those days when organized tourism was unheard of and opportunities were restricted to the half dozen hotels that existed at that time. He said today’s graduates were a privileged lot as the sky was the limit for their career advancement thanks to the booming tourism industry.
Among the other speakers were the Chairman of the SLITHM Mr. Sunil Dissanayake and the Best Graduate of 2016.
The SLITHM facility in Colombo is the first purpose built hotel school in South Asia. It offers students a real-life hotel scenario while training and lacks nothing in terms of facilities and training equipment. The SLITHM which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Tourism Development holds a pre-eminent position among the national training and management education institutions as the source of first choice for the HR requirements of the local tourism and hospitality industry. Its graduates over the past 50 years are known to hold some of the most influential positions in the travel, tourism, hospitality, food and beverage industries both locally and across the globe.