Interview: Tourists need better infrastructure, says Astoria developer

astoria yuan zhong

Mar 12, 2016 (LBO) – Sri Lanka should take more steps to attract Chinese tourists as foreign investors increase investments in the island, a top Chinese property developer said.

“We think Sri Lanka has a bright future. But Sri Lanka must improve infrastructure facilities to attract
more people,” Zhong Yuan, the president of AVIC International Hotels Lanka Limited, told Lanka Business Online.

Yuan represents a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the developer of the Astoria apartments in Kollupitiya, Colombo.

A top 200 Fortune company with businesses in aviation and avionics, defense, retail and high-end consumer goods, financial services and hotel management, AVIC is a global player.

In Sri Lanka AVIC has interests including road construction and civil engineering.

Yuan said Chinese tourists would benefit from better options for food, accommodation and shopping when they visit Sri Lanka.

“I don’t complain about curry. I personally like curry, but a lot of Chinese they don’t get used to curry,” Yuan said.

That Sri Lankan rice and curry is a bit too spicy for the Chinese palate is not surprising. And Sri Lanka is yet to develop the super malls now common in East Asian cities.

“If you go to Bangkok you can find shopping malls combined with cinemas. There are high-end shopping malls. You can spend the whole day there. Odel, maybe you can finish in an hour,” Yuan said.

These two factors favor Chinese visiting destinations such as Thailand. Nearly seven million of the 30 million visitors to Thailand last year were from China. Although only four percent of the Chinese population holds a passport, that four percent spends almost 200 billion dollars overseas annually, more than any other nation, according to Goldman Sachs.

“Customs duties in China are really high, so a lot of people go abroad, not just to enjoy holidays but also to buy something, that is very important for Chinese,” he said.

When completed towards end of 2017, early 2018 Astoria apartments in Colombo will have 2,200 square metres of shopping space, he said.

The four towers will have 608 luxury units and six rooftop duplexes. The units will be priced from 384,000 dollars for three-bedroomed and four-bedroomed luxury apartments, to 2.2 million dollars for a duplex.

“Right now there is air pollution in China and a lot of people have money, but they have less idea where to invest that money. As an international company, we can help them choose,” Yuan said.

“It’s an investment, not simply to buy and live here. We can offer a fixed return through rental fees and property management.”

Yuan said Sri Lankan apartments are offered as part of their international network of options available to investors.

“We can do time sharing. They can buy our apartment here but we can give one week in Tanzania, Kenya, Laos, Bangkok,” he added. “This is very popular.”