From Inspiring Visions to Decades of Proficient Victory – Thilanka Hotels & Resorts – Chandra Goonewardena, Gamini Goonewardena, Tissa Goonewardena, Jeff M. Goonewardena, and Thanuj Goonewardena

Preserving years of dedication and devotion, Thilanka Hotel and Resorts contributes a gleaming reputation to the Hospitality Industry of Sri Lanka. Founding its core concept back in 1977, Lionel Goonewardena the Founder of the fine establishment, and Iona Goonewardena, the Chairperson, initiated their journey with a travel agency and 5 small hotels located Hikkaduwa, Mount Lavinia, Negombo, Belihuloya, and Anuradhapura. 

Endeavoring its tremendous legacy, a pentad of perseverant entities have masterminded Thilanka Hotel and Resorts over the years, expanding its footprints among pristinely luxuriant locations locally and globally. This quintuple incorporates Chandra Hulangamuwa nee Goonewardena – the Chairperson of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts; Gamini Goonewardena – the Managing Director of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts alongside the Directors of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts; Tissa Goonewardena, Jeff M. Goonewardena, and Thanuj Goonewardena. Uniting together, these five individuals continue to prosper, enlightening their true roots of heritage. 

Chandra Goonewardena, the firstborn of the Goonewardena family is a former student of Anula Vidyalaya, Nugegoda. She was married at a very young age and learned how to bring up a family with values, nurturing her lovely children who have given her grandchildren making her a very responsible grandmother. She joined the family business at a later stage in her life with the request of her mother, late Iona Goonewardena and with the support of the directors to hold the position as Chairperson. Currently, she joined in the family business alongside her four siblings. Chandra shares the story of Thilanka’s foundation, emphasizing her father’s vision to flourish to excellence in the hospitality service. After initiating Liona Travels (Pvt) Ltd., her father changed the name to International Travel Air Ceylon Ltd. in 1968. “He opened 5 small hotels, 9 homestays, and a jeep service with 22 jeeps in both national parks of Sri Lanka,” Chandra adds. With the hope of continuing the family company through generations, he ventured into quality hospitality service, which now trends as a lavishing hotel chain around Sri Lanka. 

Chandra sets the tone for her younger siblings being an example of responsibility. “It guided me in being responsible and also naturally paved the way to improve my leadership skills and qualities from a very young age,” she emphasized. Encouraging each other in the accumulation of decisions and business strategies, Chandra takes pride in their pillaring bond; “It is the secret behind the solid establishment”.

Further contributing to the legacy is Gamini Goonewardena, the Managing Director of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts and Sigiriana Resort by Thilanka in Dambulla. Being a former Isipathanian, he followed his higher education at Orange Course College, California, before joining the family company. Having a true passion for Travel and Tourism, Gamini ran a prominent role at a very young age. Furthermore, he is a member of the Ceylon Hotel School Graduates Association and a precipice in the Hotel and Travel Business. 

According to Gamini, there are 3 contrasting distinctions to identifying Thilanka distinctly from others. “Firstly, the magnificent view from each hotel. Secondly, our lavish accommodation, and finally, it’s our service that leaves Thilanka remarkable in guests’ hearts”. Located at tranquil locations all around the island; Kandy, Dambulla, Kirulapone, Colombo 07, Kalpitiya, Hikkaduwa, Galle, Nilawelei, Thilanka has its mesmerizing effect with its breathtaking views. Maintaining a one-of-kind accommodation service, their guests are given the opportunity to cherry-pick the perfect room for their holiday getaways. “Our rooms are designed with comfort and convenience in mind and intricately designed with quaint charm and elegance making it an ideal place to simply relax” Gamini stated when unfolding the uniqueness of Thilanka. He also believes that their guests are left fascinated with Thilanka due to the excellence portrayed in their service and their welcoming staff who makes their visits more ‘homely’. 

Gamini also cherishes the bond he shares with his siblings. He extends great appreciation to his elder brother Tony (Tissa) and his younger brother Thanuj for their persistent support to uplift the business and maintaining pleasant connections with the stakeholders. He praises his time with Jeff as he adds “Jeff was always there to help me develop more business and venture out into small properties.” He further references his sister to “My sister Chandra is like a mother to us,” highlighting the guidance and direction embedded into the family business, to keep it going! 

Another influence of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts is Tissa Goonewardena, a Director of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts, who has advanced in Hotel Management and Tourism while in the USA. Side-hustling at a grocery shop and a gasoline station during his school years, Tissa’s individualism has guided him to take over the business. It is quite vital to emphasise that Tissa is a hardworking character and is very hands on, he goes down to the grass root level directly to make sure the foundation is strong and is very concerned even to the minor details. 

Tissa believes that a rational exchange of reliance and loyalty among the employer and employees must exist within any trade; “When you owe a good bunch of loyal employees, they will take your business to a new height and in return, you have to treat them fairly”. Being an avid traveling businessman, Tissa is not physically present to manage businesses, leaving their staff obligated to their duties. He also adds “if you have to stay in your office 365 days then you are not a successful businessman” while discussing the benefit of liberal decision making among staff members, strengthening their career and the business. Tissa believes that employee integrity is essential while continuing to engage in righteous actions. “Good karma will return to you in an unexpected way. That will definitely pave the way to success.” 

Unlike other entities within the industry, Thilanka continues to entail rejuvenating hospitality with extra care and safety during the pandemic. While implementing new strategies to approach clients, Thilanka continues to operate gratifyingly and remunerate its employees, setting a great example to others. Tissa also emphasizes the patronage shared among his siblings which he prospects as a ‘strength to his life’. Amidst frequent traveling in Tissa’s schedule, he describes “the bond between each other is getting stronger by each passing day”. 

Incorporating further essence to the Goonewardena Family is Jeff M. Goonewardena, a Director of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts who is a professional at Hospitality Management and Global Leadership Development, graduating from Marriott University Programs. He is also a scholar of Sabre System at American Airline Flight Academy and a graduate in International Hospitality Management at Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in UAE. 

Jeff’s concrete foundation in his academic qualifications has provided solidarity in his career. From being the former Consul General of Sri Lanka to the eleven Western States of the USA, he now operates as the Senior Coordinator to H.E the president between Sri Lanka and the USA. Jeff also serves as the Honorary Sri Lanka Consul General to Colombia and Venezuela and Honorary Mayor to the City of Oceanside, California, Baton Rouge, and Louisiana, USA. 

Being an individual with a work history of an outstanding calibre, Jeff has never elapsed to contribute towards the advancement of his homeland. As the former Director of Airport and Aviation for Sri Lanka and the Committee Chairman of Duty-Free Shops at Bandaranaike International Airport, Jeff continues to hold the advisory status of the Ambassador Forum and the Director of the Prison Department of Sri Lanka. 

Showing great passion towards humanitarianism, Jeff has portrayed his philanthropic interest towards local and international projects under the vision of “saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity all around the world especially during the natural disaster of Tsunami and the privileged global pandemic of Covid 19”. The “I am foundation”, “Navodaya Foundation” and “We Care for Humanity (WCH)” are the mainstream projects Jeff takes full accountability for, amidst various other projects conducted globally. 

Jeff takes pride in mentioning the success rate of Thilanka Hotels even during a global pandemic. “The boutique hotel, Rosmead Place by Thilanka where I’m directly involved in, succeeded in rating the highest recorded reviews in all the platforms namely, Google with 4.09, Agoda, and Expedia with 10.10” he states, further emphasizing the return rate of their clients to be an exemplary record of 80%. “The only secret is service. I make sure that meal preferences and personal desires of each customer will be recognized prior to their arrivals” he adds when accentuating the importance of genuine care and remarkable hospitality. 

Jeff concludes his statement by elaborating his gratitude towards his sibling’s presence in his life. His siblings have been a great inspiration to his business journey, amidst the “glorious achievements as well as their incidental defeats too”, taking over triumphing adventures in the business world. 

The fifth member of the Goonewardena legacy is Thanuj Goonewardena, a Director of Thilanka Hotels & Resorts, and a former student of Trinity College, Kandy. He is also an alumna of Ceylon Hotel and Tourism School, Sri Lanka, and Griffith University in Gold Coast, possessing a Bachelor’s Degree in Hotel Management & Designing. 

Initiating his career as a hotelier at Triton Hotel –Ahungalla, he later served at Le-Galadar Meridien in Colombo. Joining hands with the inaugural body at Kandalama Hotel, Dambulla, Thanuj further expanded his capacity among the international hotel chains Sheraton Mirage in Gold Coast- Australia, and Travelodge – Surfers Paradise in Australia.  

Since 1998, Thanuj has devoted his time and knowledge to the family business. Meanwhile, he engaged in various other positions such as an “English Teacher at Mahapola Bhikkhu Education Institute (NPO)” and a former lecturer at Ceylon Hotel School, Kandy and Hotel and Tourism Centre in Mandalay, Myanmar. Ever since the age of 16, Thanuj has been involved in modeling for TV adverts and fashion parades and holds the capacity of a Brand Ambassador for many businesses in Sri Lanka.

Rendering his creative artistry towards Thilanka Hotel in Kandy, he now accomplished over 25 hotels as an interior designer and hotel consultant blending his imaginations into unique masterpieces, including his household, which is now a revolutionizing boutique hotel called 55TG. 

Thanuj highlights the future vision of Thilanka Hotel and Resorts; “We are expediting our work with the vision of making “Thilanka” a strong household brand name in the hotel sector and uplift every property under Thilanka umbrella to meet a high standard irrespective of the star category”. He further emphasizes their motive to serve beyond client expectation as an ethical organization, “giving absolute priority to protect nature and the environment in a holistic approach”. 

Thanuj delightedly extends his pride in enduring immense support and guidance from his siblings throughout his pathway to success. His father, Lionel Goonewardena, and his mother, Iona Goonewardena, are prominent pillars in the family who inspired a paradigm shift through their success in the field, guiding Thanuj through life. He remarks his siblings to ‘figures of my palm’, depicting the significance of his family as a whole. Thanuj concludes by appreciating his roots, “Everyone is diverse, subtle and unique but without their collaboration in my life, I would have never achieved the success where I’m now”.  

The Goonewardenas continue in trailblazing their legacy, reaching peaks and escarpments in the hospitality industry. With unfailing and everlasting diligence and conscientiousness resonating among the five siblings, they manage to entail excitement and limitless motivation in each other, thriving to deliver the best for their clients. Along with Chandra’s leadership skills, Tissa’s global experience, Gamini’s maneuvering capabilities, Jeff’s humanitarian perspective, and Thanuj’s artistic imagination, the prose attached to Thilanka Hotels and Resorts is priceless. Abiding by their father’s initial dream to transfigure the hotel into an establishment of mere distinction and brilliance, the five entities of Thilanka are the complete transcendence for the future the company holds, up-scaling their business to a higher magnitude of perfection. Carrying on their legacy, Thilanka, the land of three kingdoms, will always be ‘A Garden of Pleasures. A Haven of Peace’, winning the hearts of myriad clients in the years to come.

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