Tsunami Hotel open again

Tsunami Hotel all set to ride the surf again
Published: Tuesday, 27 December, 2005, 09:30 AM Doha Time
COLOMBO: Sri LankaA?a??a??s A?a??E?Tsunami HotelA?a??a??, destroyed by its namesake a year ago, reopened on Christmas Day, hoping that the surf will bring back much needed holidaymakers.
Lee Blackmore, British co-owner of the Tsunami Hotel in the eastern coastal village of Arugam Bay, is hoping tourists will return to the surfing paradise and help revive the tsunami-hit community.
Only the hotelA?a??a??s name board stood upright after towering waves, some as high as 40 feet, lashed the islandA?a??a??s coastlines, claimed 31,000 lives and left a million people homeless a year ago yesterday.
A?a??A?The word tsunami is something I always associated in a positive way with surfing – the energy, the biggest wave – and thatA?a??a??s why I named the place Tsunami Hotel in 1999,A?a??A? Blackmore, 33, said in a telephone interview from Arugam Bay.
A?a??A?IA?a??a??ve spent many years in the Far East and its a Japanese word, rather exotic and unusual. It had a nice sound and a nice look.A?a??A?
Mini tsunamis in the Pacific often attract surfers to ride the giant waves, but the tsunami that hit Indian Ocean coastlines on December 26 last year was unprecedented.
A?a??A?Of course, like most people, we had no idea what the reality of a major tsunami was. The A?a??E?Tsunami HotelA?a??a?? was a large and positive part of my life for six years, and it was incredibly disturbing to see this word now associated with so much death and destruction. I thought long and hard about changing the name, but all my friends here thought I should keep it.
A?a??A?We want to be a symbol of overcoming the tragedy – in a sense we want to stay strong and fight back. Ironically, our name has been the very reason we had to resurrect ourselves.A?a??A?
He said the effort to rebuild his 13-room hotel had been a challenge. But after a year and spending $50,000, he has managed to get seven rooms ready for occupation that will rent for $25 to 30 a night.
Survivors got little state help after the tsunami and the best foreigners can do to assist them was to spend a holiday in the island, said Blackmore, who went into partnership with a local in 1998 to set up the hotel.
Blackmore was in Hong Kong when the tsunami wiped out the hotel but he said his partner Naleen, staff and guests had a A?a??A?miraculous escapeA?a??A?. Hundreds of other people, however, were killed in Arugam Bay, one of the worst-hit coastal areas on the island.
Only a handful of resort hotels now remain closed since the tsunami, but hotel occupancy has dropped by more than a third.
Overall hotel occupancy rates have dropped to about 50% across the tropical island nation.
However, along with worries about whether guests would return, Blackmore said he now had concerns about an upsurge in clashes between Tamil separatist rebels and troops in violation of a truce in the ethnic conflict struck in 2002.
But he said the violence had not deterred him from going ahead with relaunching the hotel in what he calls one of the worldA?a??a??s best windsurfing areas.
A?a??A?Obviously weA?a??a??re watching the situation to see how it develops in the next few months and some of the investments will be slow, but after something like the tsunami, nothing else can scare us,A?a??A? he said. – AFP
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