An interview with Giorgio Chiarel, General Manager
- What inspired RIU to choose Sri Lanka for its first resort in the Asian region?
We’ve been in the family holiday business for several decades with an important presence in Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and North Africa. It felt like a definite must to expand into the diversified Asian market. After much research we strongly believed Sri Lanka to be the ideal destination for our first hotel in Asia. Sri Lanka is known all over the world as the pearl of the continent and the country certainly does fulfill all the characteristics of a very good tourism destination. It has a rich history in tourism and is experiencing a significant yearly growth in the industry. The island has lovely weather, a varied landscape, blissful nature, wildlife, mountains, beaches, waterfalls and rivers, natural parks, jungles, ancient historic sites, beach sports, adventures and so much more. Not to forget the wonderful, welcoming and charming people. Having been to many countries, I personally believe that Sri Lanka is a perfect holiday destination. You have everything here!
The key to our hotels is the philosophy of service provided by our employees. We are known for offering a very warm and professional service and for making each and every guest feel welcome and at home. To provide this in our hotel in Sri Lanka,we have built a great team in the hotel, in which the great majority are locals.
- Riu Sri Lanka is part of one of world’s leading hospitality chains. Could you tell us more?
The hotel Riu Sri Lanka is part of the international RIU Hotels & Resorts chain. We started our business back in 1953 with a small hotel in Playa de Palma, on the Spanish island of Mallorca, and in the 80s opened the first hotel outside the Balearic Islands, on the island of Gran Canaria. The hotel exhibited a great success and today the Canary Islands still are one of RIU’s main destinations with almost 20 hotels located there. In the early 90s we opened our first international hotel in the Dominican Republic and it was the first step in RIU Hotels’ impressive growth in America where we currently have over 40 hotels.
During the 90s and 2000s, the group began to expand into other destinations. In 2010, the company launched theRiu Plaza urban brand with the first city hotel in Panama, the Riu Plaza Panama. Later it opened theRiu Plaza Guadalajara in Mexico, the Riu Plaza Miami Beach, the Riu Plaza New York Times Square,located in the heart of Manhattan, as well as the Riu Plaza Berlin and Riu Plaza The Gresham Dublin, which were the latest additions to the city hotels line.
Today RIU Hotels & Resorts has almost 100 hotels in 19 countries which welcome over 4 million guests a year and provide jobs to more than 26,500 employees. We are currently the world’s 29th ranked chain, one of the Caribbean’s most popular and the third largest in Spain.
In the next two years, we will be opening a 174-room Riu Palace hotel and a 248-room Riu Classic hotel in two islets in the Maldives and the first 24hr all inclusive resort in Dubai.
- How would you describe the ‘all-inclusive’ experience at Riu Sri Lanka?
I think that it is safe to say that we have mastered the ‘all-inclusive’ after over 20 years of experience in this concept. The first all inclusive RIU hotel opened in 1996 in the Dominican Republic and today, over 70% of our hotels provide this service. Everything is available at any time for our guests. We believe that guests shouldn’t have that extra headache of worrying about the extra costs or the need to carry their wallet around when having a wonderful vacation. From the moment guests check-in and wear theall inclusive wristband, they have full access to all meals and snacks served in our main and themed restaurants, beverages at all bars, sports and activities, and entertainment programs. There is also free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. We have three swimming pools and a children’s pool with water slides, free gym, steam bath and whirlpool bath.
Guests can have a special dinner arranged in the themed restaurant based on reservation. All our services are of international standards.
- Riu Sri Lanka is ‘the’ hotel for families and groups of friends. How would you describe this?
The RIU hotels worldwide fall into four categories namely Riu Classic, Riu Plaza, Riu Palace, and RiuClubHotel. Hotel Riu Sri Lanka is part of the classic hotel category which are holiday hotels designed to offer the best services for families, couples, groups of friends or guests traveling on their own. We are a five-star rated hotel, and welcomeall kinds of guests. It is the perfect choice for a family break, an unforgettable honeymoon or a holiday with friends. Overall, to enjoy a unique experience.
We have comfortable rooms, excellent facilities and services for leisure and relaxation, as well as varied and delicious food and drink. We have a variety of music, dance, live shows, various entertainment programs and much more that guests can indulge in all day. Adults can enjoy a wide range of unlimited local and imported beverages free of charge at our Nuwaralobby bar, Lounge Bar, Karaoke Pacha discotheque and Flamingos pool bar. Our philosophy truly lives and thrives in the all-inclusive concept.
- Riu Sri Lanka is the largest hotel in the country in terms of rooms. What are some examples of notable room amenities?
We are the largest resort in Sri Lanka in terms of rooms as we have 501 rooms in total. We try to offer a fresh and modern design as well as all the amenities needed for a comfortable and relaxing stay. All of our rooms offer air conditioning, a 43’’ flat screen TV with accessto a full range of international TV channels, double washbasin, walk-in shower, electronic safe deposit boxes,a mini bar stocked with water, soft drinks and juices free of charge, laundry service, and much more. All rooms have balconies or terraces, most of them with stunning, picture-perfect views to the ocean; and in the top categories guests enjoy a whirlpool bathtub on the balcony, a guest bathroom and a separate lounge with a sofa.
Our reception will assist in getting a taxi, calling a doctor, hiring a babysitter, taking messagesduring the guests’ absence, or call any time if they need an extra pillow or blanket.
- Riu Sri Lanka features many restaurants that offer a variety of specialties. Could you describe the gastronomy?
We have two main restaurants, RitiPanna and Ceylon, and three themed restaurants. The main restaurants offer a buffet with a large variety, from Sri Lankan and Asian to Italian and Mediterranean dishes, in addition to continental breakfast and snacks at the barbeque restaurant Saute. We have live cooking stations and irresistible dessert corners. We also offer a themed buffet dinner three times a week. Guests from all nationalities, especially the locals, enjoy our food variety very much.
In addition to this offering, guest can also choose to have dinner at our Asian restaurant Kaori or Italian at La Forchetta.
Our executive chef is from Spain and our assistant chef is a Sri Lankan national who is well experienced and has worked in several different countries.
- What are the entertainment programs at Riu Sri Lanka?
Guests come to enjoy everything: the food, the pool, drinks, wellness, and also different entertainment activities. The hotel has a daytime entertainment program where any guest can join in to balance and relax their mind. We have group fitness activities in the RiuFit area several times a week. We have watergym, aerobics, beach voleyball, water polo, pool volleyball and many other activities in the water. It’s such a joy for our guests to be able to enjoy a fun time in the pool.
For children we have a fantastic pool and play area inside the hotel and different activities for 4-7 and 8-12 age groups.
At nights, we feature international bands playing different types of music, dances and other performances; and we make sure we don’t repeat the shows, trying to give our guests something new every time we host them. We also hire a famous and well talented dancing group from Colombo twice a week, featuring traditional and international dances. Our shows are on for a straight hour, with no breaks, keeping the excitement alive. We also have our own professional dancing group. The discotheque-karaoke Pacha is open six times a week.
- What does Riu Sri Lanka offer its guests in terms of wellness and recreation?
All guests can enjoy a steam or whirlpool bath, the Jacuzzi, and shed some pounds and have a good balance at the gym featuring a variety of equipment. We have Yoga too, taught by a certified professional which we conduct in the morning and is part of the hotel’s entertainment program called RiuFit where everyone can join to exercise, relax and escape the stress of everyday life to clear their mind.
We have three large pools where guests spend most of their wonderful time and it’s such a nice feeling with the sun. Our guests can borrow pool towels from the pool towel hut with a card which our front desk staffis happy to provide with.
We have the RenovaSpa, which is a five-star global spa chain and has a range of services such as a variety of massages and beauty therapies. It truly stands for its sophistication and tranquility and has a modern beauty salon offering nail treatments, salon services with special services for weddings or events including traditional Sri Lankan wedding make-up and dress-up. Guests can also have a different spa experience right at our beach pavilion facing the ocean. I think that they will truly love to spend a full day at the spa at an affordable price.
- Riu Sri Lanka is probably the best hotel for families with kids. What can the guests expect?
The hotel definitely stands for a full-on fun package made for families with kids too. At RiuLand, kids can experience adventures and have an unforgettable time under the supervision of our RiuLand activity coordinators. We organize diverse programs and theme days for our youngest guests, divided in two different age groups: 4 to 7 years, and 8 to 12 years. We have a large, fantastic kids pool with a beautifully built –in playground. We have a swimming pool built with slides that kids enjoy very much and at the same time, are very safe. We also have a pool that’s meant just for water games and competitions. We have play areas inside the hotel too. They get to also play, learn and dance together with our mascot Calú who is a friendly sea turtle that was‘born’ on one of RIU’s wonderful beaches.
We also have our creative program RiuArt for adults and children over 12 years of age where they can express their creativity in a relaxed environment with no time pressure, creating designs with colors, shapes, structures and just about anything, and an in-house drawing expert is available to guide them.