Maharashtra: Hotels gear up to welcome guests but unsure about business

IANS
Friday, 10 July 2020

Industry players attributed the sombre situation to a gnawing fear in the minds of people over the COVID-19 pandemic, staff shortage in most establishments, besides financial shortfall hindering resumption of full-fledged operations, even at a reduced 33 per cent capacity.
 

Mumbai: Following the Maharashtra government's nod on Monday, thousands of hotels, lodges, resorts and other places of accommodation in the state reopened spick and span for business on Wednesday, only to find the guests were still elusive.
 
Industry players attributed the sombre situation to a gnawing fear in the minds of people over the COVID-19 pandemic, staff shortage in most establishments, besides financial shortfall hindering resumption of full-fledged operations, even at a reduced 33 per cent capacity.
 
Top hotelier bodies like FHRAI, AHAR and HRAWI have already apprised the Covid-19 SOPs of the state government to all their member-establishments and directed them to strictly adhere to the norms.
 
 "Hotels are completely geared up to welcome guests. However, at the moment, we are unsure of how many will actually check in," said Federation of Hotels & Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI) Vice-President Gurbaxish Kohli candidly on the current sentiments.
 
 While the industry has welcomed the state decision, he pointed out that with travel restrictions still in place and many staff still not reporting for duty, the "initial phase after reopening may remain subdued".
 
 Indian Hotels & Restaurants Association (AHAR) President Shivanand Shetty said that hoteliers are relieved that a beginning has been made after nearly four months of total stagnation in the industry.
 
He said things could look up "once the entire ecosystem starts -- like regular domestic and international flights, local and long-distance trains, tourist vehicles, business, and leisure travel". 
 
However, Shetty wonders aloud about the logic of 33 per cent operations since "hotel rooms automatically ensure physical distancing, besides other norms in the common areas or in-house restaurants", but said AHAR members are fully implementing the rules.
 
Hotels & Restaurants Association of Western India (HRAWI) Vice-President Pradeep Shetty estimated that barely 25-35 per cent of the total industry may resume immediately, and others may gradually join the bandwagon, going up to double by next month.
 
"However, there are many hotels which have been hit hard and these may not reopen at all, or even if they do it will take some time. We expect roughly around 70 per cent of the industry to resume operations in the near future," said Pradeep Shetty.
 
The trio of industry leaders is also apprehensive over the actual bookings they may get in the initial days or weeks. With work-from-home becoming the new mantra, there may be a huge fall or nil business in the lucrative MICE segment and corporate bookings, besides social gatherings like parties, weddings, etc.
 
With the pandemic still on in major areas of the state like Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur, Nashik and others, for the present, the hotel industry has decided to adopt a "wait-and-watch approach" before making further plans.
 
On July 6, FHRAI's Kohli, HRAWI's Suhas Awchat and AHAR's Shivanand Shetty had darkly predicted that nearly 50 per cent of hoteliers may down shutters permanently as the industry has piled up losses of around Rs 1.25 lakh crore in the lockdown period.
 
The hospitality industry has 53,000 hotels (accommodation) in the regulated sector, and an equal number in the unofficial sector, besides over 500,000 restaurants (eating places only) in India, which together contribute around 10 per cent of the national GDP and accounts for 12.50 per cent of all jobs in the country.

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