Saving lives with Jetwing’s Hiran Ukwatte
Taking pride in being the home of Sri Lankan hospitality, Jetwing Hotels focuses on sustainable practice through the efforts of the associates. One such individual bringing these initiatives to life is Hiran Ukwatte, the Water Safety Manager at Jetwing Yala, who through his commitment and drive represented Sri Lanka as a judge for World Lifesaving Championships in the Netherlands, which took place from September 1-18, 2016. From a dedicated sportsman to now an enthusiastic hotelier Hiran shared a few sentiments on his achievements.
- Before you joined Jetwing Yala you were an accomplished sportsman. Tell us about your sporting career.
Yes, I showed great interest in aquatic sports back in school. I am a product of Nalanda College, during the time I participated in water polo, swimming and lifesaving, and I also had the honour of captaining the teams as well during my senior years. And also at a time where rowing was hardly even recognized I founded the sport in my alma mater. I couldn’t stay away from water- that’s when I even joined the Otter Aquatic Club, and then I went on to captain the water polo and lifesaving teams at the club, and was appointed the Club Captain.
- You have also represented Sri Lanka in some world championships and managed to bring honour to the country?
It really was a humbling experience but yes, I was the youngest schoolboy to be awarded the gold medal by the president of Sri Lanka in 1993 for saving close to 50 lives from drowning. I also took part in swimming events at the New Zealand Masters Games 1999, Australia Masters Games 1999 and World Masters Games in 2005 in Canada winning a total of four gold, five silver and three bronze medals. I also coached a few school teams, and also the Sri Lanka Army and KDU water polo teams.
- How is it like being a part of the Jetwing family?
I am so lucky to find employment in a field I’m passionate about. I joined Jetwing in 2015 and it has been a privilege to work in such an organization immensely dedicated to sustainable initiatives. I believe in giving something back to the environment, and that’s exactly what I do in my role. Jetwing Yala being a beachfront property, although lesser known for it has one of the best beach stretches in the area. Here, we engage in many sustainable practices including filtering seawater through a reverse osmosis system for the hotel’s water needs and separating wastewater at the source for gardening and laundry purposes etc. We also have introduced many beach activities from jet skiing, snorkeling to diving, and we also have a professionally certified lifeguard team at the beach.
- You are currently working on the Blue Flag Beach project, tell us more about it.
Yes, Blue Flag is a certification extended by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) for beaches in operation with sustainable practices. Currently there are 60 member countries with 2300 hotels and 4000 beaches awarded with the certification, and my goal is to get the certification for Sri Lanka as well. Jetwing with its many beachfront properties MEDIA RELEASE heavily focuses on conservation of the beaches, which is why I’m working closely with FEE to obtain the certification for Jetwing and the country.
Family owned and in the tourism industry for the past 43 years, Jetwing Hotels has surpassed expectation at every aspect. Building on their foundation of being passionate, as well as the experience of true, traditional Sri Lankan hospitality, constantly pioneering discoveries captures the essence of the brand. Such a strong statement and direction have enabled Jetwing Hotels to imagine, create and manage marvels and masterpieces, where distinctive design and elegant comfort complement each other and the environment. In line with the Jetwing Hotels Sustainable Strategy, across all properties sustainable and responsible practices are given precedence with resource efficiency, community upliftment and education, and awareness being some of our key focus areas.
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- Jetwing Yala provides additional revenue for local farmers by purchasing cinnamonwood, a sustainable fuel wood and otherwise discarded by-product, for use in then hotel’s biomass boiler (which powers air conditioning, staff rice steamers and laundry).