Corporate Info

03 August 2011

Twenty years ago, when the two brothers Ahintha and Gerard Amerasinghe started their own business in the travel trade, all they had were big dreams, clear plans and four other people to support them.

Over the years, the dreams were transformed into reality, plans turned into action and the support staff increased substantially to build what is now known as one of Sri Lanka’s premier travel groups – Worldlink Travels.

The two brothers with their humble beginnings are today the proud owners of a growing business with six companies under its belt and a bright vision for the future.

Chairman and Managing Director of the Group Ahintha Amerasinghe told the Daily FT that with expectations high on an accelerated boost in the travel and tourism industry, the group is poised to extend its services across markets, while sticking to the original vision and plan of carrying out every transaction with honesty and integrity.

“When we started in 1991, our vision, mission and goal were just one single thing – to become the finest travel agency where we carry out every transaction with the highest level of honesty and integrity in the most ethical manner,” Amerasinghe said. “Twenty years after, all of this remains the same and this has helped us grow and branch out accordingly with time.”

Recalling the early days, Amerasinghe said: “I still remember the day when my brother Gerard and I started Worldlink in 1991 at the Galadari Hotel. We started in a very small way. My parents were the Guests of Honour, Charmaine Mendis who was then Managing Director at Delmege Air Services was the Chief Guest and the first ticket was issued to then General Manager for Tomen Corporation Hiroo Hanawa.”

The group today boasts six subsidiaries, with its main focus on corporate travel under the company Worldlink Travels.

IATA certified Worldlink has flown “the cream of the corporate world,” as Amerasinghe puts it, back and forth, forming long-term relationships with its customers.

“We are the official travel agents for MAS, Hirdaramani Group, Access and Deutsche Bank Sri Lanka, among other big names. The ties with MAS go back to 18 years, which alone speaks volumes for our business,” he said.

“We value our long-term ties with our clients. Oftentimes what starts off as a purely business deal turns into a lifelong friendship which has sustained us over the years.”

Worldlink Travels is said to hold the record in Sri Lanka for issuing the air ticket of the highest value valued at Rs. 4.8 million.  “We issued two tickets for the particular client. The husband’s ticket was Rs. 4.8 million and the wife’s was Rs 3.8 million and so just one transaction came to Rs. 8.6 million.”

Dream Holidays, also a company under the Worldlink belt, concentrates on packages and markets exclusively outbound travel. Known to be one of the largest companies that handle incentive groups for many of the local corporates, Dream Holidays offers packages from a minimum of two person holidays to larger groups.

Amerasinghe explained that the GSA arm of the group is Worldlink Air Services, which has been representing South African Airways, Princess Cruises and Cunard Lines in Sri Lanka for many years. The company also represented Air New Zealand and Ansett Australia for many years until they closed down their operations in Asia.

“Worldlink Tours concentrates on the inbound travel market while Travel Zone, another IATA accredited company located at Seeduwa, handles travel operations exclusively from Ja-Ela to Chilaw area. We see this as a niche market and have received a good response from the area, especially from the Katunayake Free Trade Zone.”

Worldlink Tours focusing on the inbound sector was reactivated in 2009 after temporarily halting its operations due to the unfavourable business climate.  The tag line ‘We will ensure that you’ll love Sri Lanka’ is an assurance given to both overseas agents and clients when they tour Sri Lanka with Worldlink. “We are very small in the inbound segment, but then again that is our USP as well. Every visitor to Sri Lanka should be handled with utmost care and passion. Being small, we can afford to take care of our customers personally and they will not be just a number in the books of Worldlink Tours.”

The group recently ventured into a brand new area of business by acquiring a 17-acre land in Sigiriya, which will soon be transformed into a 60 room hotel. To be named Sigiri Oya Resorts (Pvt) Ltd., the project is still in planning stage.

“There was an old neglected house on the land. We renovated it and now it looks a real rustic jungle bungalow. We call it ‘Sigiri Oya Cottage’ and offer it as a holiday home to Sri Lankans. Up to 10 people can be accommodated in the cottage.” Construction of the resort is scheduled to start within the next few months, he revealed.

Commenting on the present status of the industry, Amerasinghe said that with the benefits of peace, Sri Lanka is definitely ready to open its doors to 2.5 million tourists. “When you look at countries such as Bangkok and Malaysia, the 2.5 million seems like too small a number,” he said, adding that step by step Sri Lanka would be able to acquire similar status soon.

“Of course, we must remember that no company has really invested big numbers for the past 30 years or so. The environmental change is happening only now. With more hotels such as the much-anticipated Shangri-La coming up, the 2.5 million will be an easy target to achieve.”

Amerasinghe went on to emphasise that things do not change overnight and that time must be given for the country to get all aspects ready. Room capacity increase, road and other infrastructure developments and value additions will draw up the needed setting for things to fall into place. “With the arrival of peace, 75% of the challenges for the industry were cleared.”

Voicing out concerns for the industry, he stated that the main issue for the travel industry was the problem of credit. “Airlines gives us 10 days of credit, but it is virtually impossible to collect credit on due time. For a month the outbound ticketing value is close to 2.5 billion in Sri Lanka. We have to be careful and a proper credit management system is vital for the development of the industry.”

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