UNDP and Aitken Spence Hotels forge new partnership

10 Feb 2012

imageMrs. Razina Bilgrami, Deputy Country Director (Programme), UNDP and Mr. Gemunu Goonawardena, Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotel exchange letters of cooperation

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) exchanged letters of cooperation with Aitken Spence Hotels at an event held on 9 February at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, Colombo. The exchange took place between Mrs. Razina Bilgrami, Deputy Country Director (Programmes), UNDP and Mr. Gemunu Goonawardena, Vice President, Aitken Spence Hotels.

The cooperation stems from UNDPs interest to enhance its work with private sector companies to create livelihood opportunities for communities in the country’s formerly conflict-affected areas. This partnership enables UNDP and Aitken Spence Hotels to share resources, expertise and experiences, and demonstrate the positive gains of the collaborations between private sector companies and development agencies in support of people’s lives and livelihoods. It also marks an effort to help young people to seize job opportunities in the tourism industry, which is seeing a boom in these areas. 

Youth in Sri Lanka’s conflict-affected areas have still limited employment options, especially outside traditional sectors such as agriculture and fisheries. Under this initiative, Aitken Spence Hotels Limited will provide 70 youth (two groups of 35) who have an interest in pursuing careers in the hotel industry, with hotel school and on-the-job training over 12 months, starting in February 2012. This will help these young people to develop their skills in a non-traditional sector and market themselves in what is an emerging industry for these regions. The initiative prioritizes female youth, as a way of encouraging greater female participation in the tourism sector and helping to break down obstacles that exclude women, especially rural women, from engaging in the sector. The lessons from this initiative will offer important insights into how the private sector can develop and harness labour and personnel resources in these regions.

The partnership is undertaken through the Aitken Spence School of Hospitality under the Spence Evoluzione Charitable Trust, a charitable trust managed by its trustee, Aitken Spence Corporate Finance Limited. The process includes the participation of the Organization for Rehabilitation of the Handicapped (ORHAN) as the civil society partner, who will coordinate administration and logistical services for the programme.

The partnership stems from the Communities for Progress Project, which is supported by Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). This project encourages skill development, social transformation and the partnerships of different actors. Implemented in 12 conflict-affected Divisional Secretariat (DS) Divisions in Ampara, Anuradhapura, Jaffna, Polonnaruwa, and Vavuniya, it promotes socio-economic empowerment for vulnerable groups with a special focus on gender, youth, and differently-able individuals in multi-ethnic communities.