Community & Culture
Sharing Our Country And Uplifting Her People
Our homes of Sri Lankan hospitality draw their charm from two integral aspects of our daily lives – the people who surround our family, and the culture we share with the world. As we expand across our tropical island, we design our homes to enhance the livelihoods and living standards of the communities around us. In turn, they join us in promoting the finest of local hospitality through sustainable experiences that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else on Earth.
Jetwing Youth Development Programme
Over time, our family has built relationships with communities in the regions where we have established our hotels. As we work closely with each other, we formulate long-term projects designed to address specific needs of each community, capitalising on the social and economic benefits of sustainable tourism for livelihood development.
As a PATA Grand Award winner, the Jetwing Youth Development Programme (JYDP), which was launched prior to the opening of Jetwing Vil Uyana in 2006, is a notable achievement in this regard. Starting in the farming villages around Sigiriya, the JYDP began by working with a teacher in Polonnaruwa and Chief Monks from nearby Buddhist temples to carry out a free six-month training programme which provided local school leavers with a working knowledge of hotel operations as well as English, etiquette, cultural history, and industry insights. Many of these individuals continue to be employed with us – serving as a testament of the JYDP’s success, which has since expanded to provide opportunities for the youth of disadvantaged families in Negombo, Galle, Tissamaharama and Passikudah as well.
Tuk Tuk Project at Jetwing Lighthouse
In the Southern capital of Galle, our Tuk Tuk Project spearheaded by Jetwing Lighthouse was also recognised with a PATA Award for welcoming local tuk-tuk drivers to our family. By engaging with local youth, and integrating our neighbouring locality with hotel operations, we helped remove an antagonism that existed between hoteliers and local drivers, and eliminated the need for a third-party hotel taxi service with a welcoming community who treated our guests to authentic Sri Lankan hospitality inspired by our family values
Lighthouse Community Pool
Following the devastating 2004 tsunami, Jetwing Lighthouse collaborated with several parties to build a community swimming pool in an effort to pass on valuable aquatic life skills to local residents. With funding from SOS Velsen of the Netherlands and Adopt Sri Lanka founded by Geoffrey Dobbs (a survivor of the tsunami himself), Jetwing Lighthouse was able to construct the pool designed by renowned Bawa architect, Channa Daswatta. Julian Bolling, a former Sri Lankan Olympic Swimmer, and Christina Fonce, who had already established a women’s swimming project further south in Weligama, provided the technical expertise to engage with local communities in these waters, which continue to host free swimming lessons conducted by professional coaches for schoolchildren and the wider community. The success of the project has also resulted in the establishment of a trust managed by the entities above, dedicated to the management and maintenance of the Lighthouse Community Pool for the benefit of coastal residents who want to learn how to swim.
Association with Local Farmers at Jetwing Kaduruketha
Farming communities have resided in the rural paddy lands of Wellawaya for over 2500 years. But as centuries went by, harvests declined. Unlike the ancient era, farmers of this day and age primarily engage in small-scale paddy cultivation, where they often find themselves in debt due to loans to assist with their yield. To support these communities, we have used the 50 acres of paddy land surrounding Jetwing Kaduruketha to provide local farming families with seed money (per acre, per season) for cultivation. An equal portion of the resulting harvest is then shared equally between the farmer and our hotel, with excess stocks of rice being sold to other hotels in our family. The farmer is not required to repay the money given to them, enabling a steady income for our neighbouring communities in the region.
Foster Schools Programme
We believe that education is an integral facet of sustainable societies. As part of our community outreach efforts to uplift livelihoods, several of our homes across the island continue to work with local schools to shape the next generation of Sri Lankan society. Our resident naturalists in particular, often visit these schools to conduct special workshops on sustainable development by focusing on areas such as the environment, biodiversity, and waste management among others.
Local Sourcing and Employment
As an island rich in natural resources, we prefer sourcing products and materials from our regional vicinities in an effort to share the social and economic benefits of tourism with our local communities. For instance, the purchase of cinnamon wood as a sustainable fuel for our biomass boilers provides additional income for farmers and the local supply chain. We also prioritise local recruitment in the same spirit of the JYDP, where opportunities are created for Sri Lankans from all walks of life to play a role in our thriving tourism industry. And as a family of legendary Sri Lankan hospitality, each of our hotel maintain strong relationships with local schools, religious places of worship and grassroot community organisations through a series of philantrophic activities.
The preservation of our island culture is a commitment that remains close to our hearts. At the home of Sri Lankan hospitality, we believe in sharing our heritage with the world that lands on our shores, while simultaneously protecting and nurturing it as our ancestors did for us today. All hotels and villas in our family host a variety of authentic experiences including tours of tea factories, markets, and villages. The latters includes the sourcing of meals and transport from the village itself, in order to provide residents with a supplementary source of income. In addition, many local arts and crafts are featured throughout our homes – either in the form of cultural performances, or as interior decorations using natural materials such as cane, reed, palm leaves and more.
Throughout our nearly five decades of operations, it has been our firm belief that hospitality cannot prosper alone. The local communities around our hotels and resorts are integral to a successful operation and we always strive to ensure that they benefit from the tourism industry.
It’s with this goal in mind that we launched a grassroots project – Thrive – aimed at empowering micro-, small-, and medium-scale enterprises around our hotels. Via this programme, it is our aim to provide local businesses with avenues to build their capacity, apply for and obtain certification and licenses, and gain financial assistance to become lucrative enterprises.
Thrive was launched at Jetwing Kaduruketha, in Wellawaya, where the project saw tuk-tuk drivers in the village undergo a chauffeur training programme, assisted female entrepreneurs in the locality to build their capacity and expand their businesses, as well as set up a Farmer Field School to share knowledge and expertise among the local farmers about sustainable and organic agriculture, just to name a few.
Several local producers were coached on improving the quality of their products, and meeting regulations and guidelines to obtain Good Manufacturing Practice and Good Agricultural Practice certifications that can assist in their endeavours to reach a wider market across the island.
With the resounding success of the project at Jetwing Kaduruketha, Thrive has now been expanded to encompass a greater number of our hotels, providing micro- and small-scale enterprises especially those run by rural women the opportunity to see their enterprises succeed and grow.
Sri Lanka, since time immemorial, has been a melting pot of differing cultures and religions, creating a rich mosaic of diversity across the island. Although for centuries, these faiths and their followers existed in peaceful harmony, the unfolding of unfortunate events over the past several decades have threatened that balance.
As a homegrown hospitality company with hotels and resorts spread from the northern peninsula to the tip of the southern shore and from coast to coast across the width of the country, we believe we are well placed to celebrate this cultural plurality and promote tolerance and understanding. This was the thinking that led to the rolling out of Project WE – a project which provides a platform across our family of hotels to champion inclusivity and diversity.
Project WE events have been held across multiple hotels thus far, creating an understanding environment in which our associates, who hail from a myriad backgrounds and faiths, can share customs and practices, opinions and ideas, dispelling misconceptions and rebuilding the bond of trust and tolerance that is the hallmark of Sri Lanka.