Sri Lanka’s boutique hotels suffer the ravages of war

SIGIRIYA, Sri Lanka, July 1, 2007 (AFP) – Britney Spears, Paul McCartney, Sting and Paul Simon have all travelled to Sri Lanka for a big-bucks taste of tropical luxury. “The rich will not want to come if Sri Lanka has an image of a cheap destination,” Jinasena said. But an escalating war with Tamil Tiger rebels and increasingly gruesome headlines on the human rights situation means that the rich or famous are now staying away — and rooms in the island’s boutique hotels are going for a song.

“They (tourists) have known for years that terrorism here is centred around military targets,” said Gehan Wijeratne, director of Jetwing Group which runs a chain of 10 hotels, including three properties catering to the deep-pocketed visitor.

“But travellers don’t like lawlessness, where there are extra-judicial killings, abductions. It sends shivers down their spine. Human rights are emerging as a bigger concern, people starting to brand us as a dirty destination.”

One example of luxury rooms going cheap is at Jetwing’s Vil Uyana, or Water World — a resort built over a wetland in Sigiriya, 170 kilometres (106 miles) north of Colombo.

From the outside, the 25 that