Over the next couple of weeks we will be profiling the winners of the Griffith Business School Outstanding Alumni Awards. Stay tuned for the rest in our Meet the Winners series.
Thanuj Goonewardena is thrilled to have been named Griffith Business School’s Outstanding International Alumnus of the Year for 2018. An industry leader in the tourism sector, Thanuj says this recognition of his work is truly humbling. “I am honoured that Griffith has recognized my endeavour towards humanity, hospitality and design. The Alumni Award is a reassurance of my commitment to create a path for people to do what they do better, and live happier lives.”
Thanuj has 29 years’ experience in hospitality, planning, design, and construction of hotels. Before studying with GBS he was literally packing his bags to continue his education in Salzburg when a friend of the family convinced his parents that Griffith University on the Gold Coast was the best choice for him. Having just completed a five-year work-study diploma at the Sri Lanka Hotel and Tourism School at the time, Thanuj says he was looking for a well-rounded learning experience.
“Coming from a small island nation – Sri lanka almost the size of Tasmania – I found that Griffith was my stepping stone to the world,” he says. Since graduating from Griffith Business School, he has moved from working in various hotels to building and launching hotels as well. In that time his career has been full of rewarding and remarkable highlights. These included working as a volunteer for post-tsunami affected families in 2004-2005, establishing a hospitality school in Myanmar during the military regime in 2006, representing Sri Lanka as a young ambassador to Brazil in 2000, and being named Sri Lanka’s Young entrepreneur of the Year in 2009 to name a few.
The entrepreneur says he originally came to Griffith to study hospitality, but decided to add art and sculpture into the mix which led to an affinity for design. Using these new skills, he further expanded his hotel creation and management skills.
Mid-career Thanuj got the sad news that his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, leading him to move to Colombo to be with her. It was here that he really put his design skills to good use, remodeling their simple home into a boutique hotel that showcased his style and flair for aesthetics.
Now in remission, his mother runs the hotel, 55TG Boutique Suites, while Thanuj has created almost 23 boutique hotels in Sri Lanka.
He credits a lot of his success to the university that saw his talents flourish and thrive. “Being at Griffith gave me the opportunity to work for Sheraton Mirage Gold Coast and Travelodge, during which time I gained much needed industry experience at the same time as completing my studies. This laid the strong foundations for me to face the future.”
He continues: “During my time at Griffith, I was not just bombarded with industry knowledge, but was groomed to be an individual equipped with enthusiasm, interpersonal skills, creativity, empathy, networking skills, communicating skills and social intelligence.”
He says the personalized nature of the university was one reason why he thinks they provide a world-class education. “Friendly and caring lecturers and tutors guided me through my days at Griffith,” he explains.
“The University enhanced my emotional intelligence and boosted my confidence, helping me realise that my success was just waiting to be unleashed.”
Thanuj says he would definitely recommend Griffith Business School, and indeed the university as a whole to anyone considering further education. “Griffith in my experience is not just an institute where students are imparted with knowledge, but a place where young individuals are nurtured and transformed into well-rounded human beings. Students of GBS have the confidence and leadership skills to take on any challenge that comes their way.
“I am what I am today thanks to Griffith,” he says.