Celebrating International Womens Day We Talk To Jetwing Hotels Sri Lanka Chairwoman

Celebrating International Womens Day We Talk To Jetwing Hotels Sri Lanka Chairwoman

To celebrate International Women’s Day we speak with Chairwoman Shiromal Cooray on she helped drive the family business from a single hotel to becoming one of the country’s most successful hospitality groups.

1) Jetwing is very much a family business. What do you remember about it as a child growing up?
My father being very passionate about it and working hard and my mother supporting him and taking care of my brother and me.

2) Why were you not tempted to join the family business directly?
Yes but I always wanted to be independent and explore.

3) It sounds like your father had high  hopes for you, albeit as a doctor. Do you think this helped towards your professional success?
Yes, I grew up knowing I had to have a career. Always dreamt of being a grown up and being in charge but helping others.

4) What do you think the biggest challenges were setting out in business in Sri Lanka as a woman?
The perceptions about women, social bias, general acceptance in society that business is male domain as much as taking care of the household and family is female.

5) Do you think your father thought the world of business was suitable for a woman? 
Yes. He was fascinated with the free medical services Castro introduced in Cuba when my father was a young university student. He knew he couldn’t do it in Sri Lanka, but wanted to do his thing by getting me to be a doctor and providing free medication in poverty stricken areas.

6) With regards to your stint in Hong Kong, how was this? What were your impressions of the city? Was it an enjoyable period for you? How did working here compare with Sri Lanka?
I loved my experience in Hong Kong. It is a very transient city, people come and go. But a very vibrant city with two worlds.I was a nobody in Hong Kong and loved the anonymity it provided, in Sri Lanka I was always so and so’s daughter which accorded me certain privileges, which I grew to appreciate very much.

7) What would you describe as your career highlights?Working as a director at JWalter Thompson, stint in Hong Kong, joining Jetwing and developing the company and the brand along with my brother, being invited to join the board of Sri Lanka’s premier private Bank, also joining the board of Allianz insurance, capital Alliance an investment bank, and Ceylon tea brokers , a commodity broker.These broadened my knowledge and I truly appreciate and enjoy the opportunities.

8) What pushed you to eventually entering the family business? I was a whistleblower and lost my job. Then my Dad said why don’t you join the Travel division.

9) What is your role in the business?
I take care of the inbound and outbound travel arm of Jetwing, the airline representation division and the different niche travel divisions. I am also the chairman of Jetwing Hotels but do not get involved in the day to day operations.

10) How did your previous career roles help with what you are doing now?
Tremendously. I am able to empathize more and see things from a very different perspective.

11) What is Jetwing Hotels? What does it offer for holidaying families? What can guests expect?
Guests can expect authentic Sri Lankan hospitality provided by a team of professionals who are passionate about what they are doing.Families can experience this in the beautiful spaces Jetwing provides around the Island.

12) Which are your target markets?
Europe, USA, India, China, Japan, UK, Russia, mainly.

13) How has Jetwing navigated the pandemic and how have you had to adapt the business?
It’s been a very challenging time. As our revenues were almost zero, we had to reduce our expenses, taking salary cuts, letting go of contract associates even very reluctantly, engaging with the domestic travel market .

14) And what about Sri Lanka, what does it have to offer as a family destination? Do you have any tips or ‘must sees’ for visitors? Sri Lanka has lots to offer as a family destination. Naturally, being an Island We have the beaches, and the adventures with the sea including surfing, diving, snorkeling, whale and dolphin watching, swimming, then the wildlife parks with elephants, bear, leopards and birds, a rain forest, the beautiful hill country with a cooler climate and the tea plantations, water falls, the 2500 year old history and culture, yoga, meditation and wellness experiences for the body and soul, and of course its amazing, naturally curious and hospitable people!!!!

Please visit www.jetwinghotels.com to find out more about the incredible variation of villas and hotels this hospitality company has to offer.