There are an amazing group of people behind our collection of stunning hotels in Sri Lanka. With first-hand experience of Sri Lanka as a luxurious holiday destination, these interesting people each have their own unique story. We thought you might enjoy getting to know them too. Here we give you a Q&A session with Henrietta Cottam, Guest Relations Manager at Why House, near Galle.
Q: How long have you lived in / been coming to Sri Lanka?
A: I came for Christmas in 2009 and stayed at Why House, which was then owned by a great friend. I came back in 2011 to set up Why as a hotel at his request and, despite a change of ownership, I am still here five years later.
Q: What encouraged you to visit, stay and settle?
A: Why House has a magical quality to it and the staff I inherited are still here, which makes it hard to leave as we have all been on such a journey. I have also had the opportunity to create a product from nothing, which has been an amazing experience especially since this was my first foray into tourism. Timing has played a good part too as I hit Sri Lanka just as it piqued people’s interest again and is now a hot destination.
Q: What do you love about Sri Lanka?
A: The weather fascinates me as it truly is so changeable. I also have a deep regard for the people who also intrigue me. I love their humour…. Only in Sri Lanka am I rendered speechless on a daily basis. My favourite is: “Madam, I am 100% not sure!”
Q: Where is/are your favourite places for a Sri Lankan getaway?
A: Dare I say it, but Kahanda Kanda. It is a very romantic and special place to me and I love the peace and quiet, and the staff. I also love Mamboz in Tangalle because the food is delicious and it has a hippy vibe that I can just about handle (I am an air con sort of a girl).
Q: Name three Sri Lankan must-sees or experiences
A: Polonnaruwa: I loved it and found it haunting and beautiful.
Ratnapura: For all the trading, markets and hustle and bustle.
Koggala Lake: Sunset on the lake is pretty fabulous from a boat or lake side villa.
Q: What three items do you consider essentials for a Sri Lankan road trip?
A: Some good snacks – Sri Lanka’s ‘short eats’ can be heavy going when it is all that is available – a soft pillow, pashmina and car chargers for phones!
Q: What do you love about Sri Lankan food, and can you name a favourite dish?
A: I love the freshness of the food, the variety of cooking techniques and the use of local produce. I could become a vegetarian easily as the use of vegetables is extraordinary. My favourite dish is an okra curry – who’d have thought it! What a total surprise!
Q: Can you share a surprising/little known fact on Sri Lanka?
A: At Sri Lankan parties, they go home as soon they have eaten! Hence, it’s best to eat before a party, as food is always served late and one can be ‘nicely refreshed’ if not careful before the food is served.
Q: Can you share any tips with tour ops planning Sri Lankan itineraries?
A: Be realistic about the transfer times and manage the client expectations on how far things can be from each other. Sri Lanka is big!