The last time but one we visited Pasikudah, 3 years ago, there was still no hotels whatsoever on the beach front, just a worn our guesthouse and the sweeping bay.
This region was ravaged by war and Pasikudah had become a sad lament amongst Sri Lankan’s from other parts of the island – that Sri Lanka’s best swimming beach was completely inaccessible. It was no surprise that soon after the end of hostilities, several investors were said to be moving in to build hotels.
On our last visit, almost a year ago, there was still just one hotel, Maalu Maalu (or Fish, Fish in English). For over a year Maluu Maluu has enjoyed a premier position on this fine sandy bay, with no competition whatsoever. There were signs last year that this was about to change, with preliminary construction taking place and every parcel of prime land said to have been sold off to developers.
On our visit in March 2013, the bay had changed almost beyond recognition, with what is said to 14 hotels either completed or under construction. Whilst it was said for those who remembered it in its pristine state, the region needs employment and all the hotels are certainly providing that. The quality of some of the beach hotels means that for the first time, tourists are able to enjoy this beautiful bay in some considerable luxury. For the moment prices are very low for what you get (with the exception of Maalu Maalu who are still charging inexplicitly high rates).
Already completed is UGA Bay, a very fine beach resort from the Uga stable that has brought us the very fine hotels: Jungle Beach and Ulugalla. The stunning mediterranean inspired design is spacious and peaceful – making Uga my first choice for a stay on Pasikudah currently. The almost completed (when we visited) Anilana looks as though it will be beautiful when completed and while it doesn’t have the wide frontage and spacious setting that Uga enjoys, it does have an almost private beach. We also saw what will be the super luxury Beach House Pasikudah from the Maldives group – The Beach Collection. They described it as 90% completed, which I had my doubts about, though I guess the finishing touches always come faster than the foundations and structure. It should be fully operational by July (they say). There was no way we could tell how luxurious it would be, apart from too say that the rooms will have wonderful sea views and will be enormously spacious! The other notable addition will be the Thai chain, Centara who know a thing or two about mass market 4* hotels.
My worry about Pasikudah is that the east coast of Sri Lanka lacks the infrastructure needed to transport this amount of guests to and from Pasikudah. There is a seaplane planned twice a day in season (May to September) and many guests will brave the 7 hour drive back to Colombo, the 5 hour drive to Kandy or the 3 hours to Polonnaruwa. Some intrepid people might even take the scenic train journey – which takes a scheduled 8 hours though in all likelihood, an hour or two longer than that. However, those options are unlikely to appeal to enough people, so I do wonder how long it will take to fill the scheduled 1400-1700 (the figure varied depending on whom I talked to) hotel rooms which will be in operation by 2014!
I also couldn’t help noticing that the big players in the Sri Lankan mass market hotel sector were conspicuous only by their absence – no Jetwings, Keels or Aitken Spence hotels at all? Hmmmm… I wonder why?