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Shangri-La opens 300-room resort in Sri Lanka after delay

[COLOMBO] Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Asia opened its first resort in Sri Lanka's southern district of Hambantota where the country is considering creating a special economic zone for Chinese investors.

The 300-room Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort and Spa in 145 acres of beach-front land is the first of the two luxury property development projects in Sri Lanka that the Hong Kong listed group planned following the end of the country's 26-year war seven years ago.

Shangri-La is building another 500-room hotel in the capital Colombo near a planned US$1.4 billion Chinese luxury real estate project which is under construction and expected to open in the first quarter of next year.

The group initially planned to spend US$500 million on the Colombo project and the Hambantota resort but later the company said the cost had gone up by at least 10 per cent to US$550 million due to design changes. Government officials said the cost could be higher than US$550 million due to delays.

It originally expected to complete the first phase of Hambantota project in August 2013 and Colombo hotel was expected to open in early 2014.

Lori Lincoln, director of corporate communications at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts told Reuters via email the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo would open in late 2017, she declined to give details on the company's total investments in Sri Lanka.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts currently manages 98 hotels around the world under the Shangri-La brand with a room inventory of over 40,000.

Sri Lanka's Tourism Minister John Amaratunga last week said the country's tourism industry was targeting 2.5 million visitors this year and revenues of US$3.5 billion.

Total arrivals hit a record high of 1.8 million in 2015, while revenue from Sri Lanka's leisure sector also peaked at US$2.43 billion last year.

Arrivals rose 11.6 per cent year-on-year in April, with the number of foreign visitors rising nearly every month since the nearly three-decade-long civil war ended in May, 2009.