When Legends are Crowned – Herbert Cooray Recognized at Sri Lanka Tourism Golden Jubilee

 “Herbert Cooray could be identified as the single individual who had made the largest contribution to the development of tourism in Sri Lanka” – H.M.S. Samaranayake, A Lifetime in Tourism.

The Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Sri Lanka Tourism held on the 27th of May 2016 was the perfect backdrop to recognize the contributions made to the industry by pioneers, with the legendary Herbert Cooray being amongst those awarded for their efforts to promote and enhance Sri Lankan tourism.

With the entire month dedicated to the milestone of celebrating tourism in the country, Sri Lanka Tourism initiated a series of activities to celebrate the historic occasion. Along with the celebrations a commemorative volume, a commemorative stamp and a video film on the 50-year history of the industry were launched at the national ceremony attended by Hon. Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. Individuals who have contributed to the development and growth of the tourism industry throughout the years were felicitated as Legends of Tourism along with appreciation awards for long service staff members of the institutions at this event.

“My father was a true visionary”, says Hiran Cooray, current Chairman of Jetwing. “He was a simple man, who dedicated his life to ensuring that Sri Lankan hospitality was famed the world over. Blessed with an eye for location and potential destinations, along with an iron commitment towards high standards of service, Jetwing has been very much his third child (Shiromal Cooray is the Managing Director of Jetwing Travels).

He was the one who put in place our brand essence, and who constantly spoke about the importance of family and its values – to this day, every associate that joins the Jetwing family is identified by their passion, honesty, integrity and tenacity. With a never say never attitude, he dreamt of properties and implemented them to perfection. A very good example is Jetwing Lighthouse, which no one ever thought would succeed being in Galle, then known as a one night destination. Look at the hotel now, and look at the city!

I firmly believe that if he were alive to accept the award, he would be proud. Not just proud of Jetwing, but proud of where the industry is today and all the stakeholders who have made it possible. He would also say that now is not the time where we rest and wait for people to come, but to keep moving forward!”.

Born in January 1929, Herbert Cooray was a keen student and an avid lover of cricket – traits his descendants share. Educated at St. Benedict’s College and later on St. Joseph’s College, Herbert joined the University of Ceylon in 1946 and transferred to the Peradeniya campus. After a grand adventure around the world with his friends, he set up his own company – N.J. Cooray Builders Ltd, and was asked to build the Seashells Hotel in Negombo in a record 6 months by another pioneer of the industry, G.E.B. Milhuissen who owned the first resort in Sri Lanka and the first to be designed by Geoffrey Bawa (Jetwing would later go on to acquire the Blue Lagoon and relaunch it as Jetwing Lagoon).

Upon the successful completion of the Seashells Hotel, Herbert was falling in love with the tourism industry and opened the Blue Oceanic Beach Hotel (now Jetwing Blue) in 1973 with six rooms of a planned fifty followed in quick succession by the Seashells Hotel (Jetwing Sea) and the Royal Oceanic Hotel (Jetwing Beach).

His contribution to the Sri Lankan tourism industry was not limited to hotels. Herbert ensured that through a specialized destination management company named Jetwing Travels, potential visitors had every opportunity and avenue to visit the country. In short time, the company became a leading player in spreading the uniqueness of Sri Lanka all over the world, thanks to his vision and careful selection of passionate and dedicated associates. With an extensive network of luxurious hotels and idyllic locales, a host of diverse itineraries and personalized travel services along with an enviably intimate knowledge of the many exotic charms of Sri Lanka, Jetwing Travels is to this day the ultimate guide to the paradise isle.

By the time of his death in 2008, the Jetwing family had seen the launch and instant success of iconic properties such as Jetwing Lighthouse, Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions, and Jetwing Vil Uyana, along with dedicated travel divisions of Sri Lanka Tailor-made – which offers the option of a customized travel experience breathing life into a vacation which varies for each visitor; Jetwing Holidays – organizing personalized and informative tours into all corners of the world; Jetwing Air – which currently represents over 12 reputed airlines from Europe and Asia as the General Sales Agency (GSA); and Jetwing Events – a certified Professional Conference Organizer meticulously coordinating all facets of corporate and personal events.

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. Considered a priority, sustainable and responsible practice is implemented through the award winning Jetwing Eternal Earth Programme; with energy efficiency, community upliftment, and education of earth saving measures to schoolchildren being a few tenets of the Programme.

Media Relations – Jetwing Hotels
30 May 2016
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