Lonely Planet Writer

How a drunken decision to buy a hotel in Sri Lanka paid off

For most of us, our drunken decisions tend to extend to a dodgy takeaway or regrettable text. But for one British couple, it was life-changing as they decided to buy an entire hotel in Sri Lanka.

Gina and Mark made one of the biggest decisions of their lives over a copious amount of rum.

Gina Lyons and Mark Lee got married last year and decided to backpack around Sri Lanka for three weeks for their honeymoon in December 2017. While in the little beach town of Tangalle, they stayed in a cheap, slightly rundown hotel. On the first night while drinking several bottles of rum with Isuru, the hotel’s bartender, they discovered the lease was coming up for sale.

The couple drunkenly started to work out the calculations and went so far as to get Isuru to contact the landowners with their offer of £30,000. Surprisingly, they accepted and when they woke with a hangover the next morning, the realities of what they had agreed to set in. They brokered the deal wearing their beachwear and promptly hired Isuru as the front-of-house manager and another local, Milinda, as their general manager. Then a fresh set of challenges presented themselves.

They refurbished the beach-side hotel with the help of some locals.

Gina told Lonely Planet about the most difficult part of the sale. “Being based in England was the hardest challenge, the lack of Sinhalese, the unknown laws.” They were also given plenty of conflicting advice but ultimately had to make their own choices. “Everyone had told us to be careful trusting people but the truth is, we trusted Milinda and Isuru – and I am glad, because they are friends for life. I would trust them with my life.”

Gina remembers the refurbishment as being their favourite part of the process. “It was physically exhausting but so rewarding. We hired all locals, we played music loud, ate takeout, and all painted and made furniture all together. It was a really special time.”

The result is Lucky Beach Tangalle. Describing itself as a place for ‘flashpackers’, it opened in July this year with just seven sea view rooms and an on-site restaurant and it’s already been getting rave reviews from guests.

With the refurbishment complete, the guests leaving satisfied and the couple continuing to successfully juggle their Sri Lankan business and their British careers, their drunken decision appears to have paid off. With a new baby in the home too though, they’ve declared that all their future big decisions will be made sober.