Maharashtra Government’s move to allow hotels and restaurants to operate at 33% capacity is a non-starter amidst rising Covid 19 cases. In an exclusive interview with Free Press Journal, the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) President Gurbaxish Kohli said the industry is in an ICU and support from the government will be like the life-saving Ventilator.
Q: Even though hotels and restaurants reopened with 33 percent capacity from July 9. What is the experience so far?
— We are aware that until all travel lines do not open up there won’t be travel and hence no visitors, therefore we know that occupancies will not encouraging but still, the government has taken the first step to allow the hotels to operate albeit in the first phase with 33% capacity only and we welcome the move. The occupancies are still in single digits.
Most hotels have voluntarily kept their hotels shut due to a lack of business. In fact, it is more expensive to keep it open with low or near zero occupancies as compared to keeping it shut. Once you open there are costs involved, electricity, staff, water will be needed and when there is no income these costs become an added burden.
Q: However, amidst rising cases, lockdown has been re-imposed with strict restrictions. How do you view this?
— In certain cities in Maharashtra, the cases have been reported as rising. Thankfully in Mumbai, the graph seems to be flattening and even starting its decline. But Mumbai is not Maharashtra. Due to rising cases in other cities the lockdown there has been re-imposed. As an industry, we are absolutely equipped and ready with all hygiene and other protocols and SOPs to start immediately, as soon as the lockdown is lifted.
Q: What is the response from the customers?
— The re-opening has not been encouraging and that’s because travel lines are not open. Once they open we will see a slightly better rate of footfalls in hotels. Customers are also scared with confidence at an all-time low but we are ready with all solutions. Only about 25% of hotels have actually decided to open and if the occupancies remain the same or lower, they might also shut shop.
Q: Are the hotel and restaurant operators in a position to bear further losses?
— It is estimated on an all India basis, that the loss for the Hospitality sector has already crossed Rs 1.40 lakh crore since the pandemic. No one is in a position to bear any further drain. The industry is on the verge of collapse, so much so that four in every 10 establishments are looking to close down permanently. The industry is in an ICU and support from the government will be like the life-saving Ventilator, without which the industry is sure to succumb.