President of Chandigarh Hospitality Association and member of Chandigarh Tourism Advisory Board Ankit Gupta, speaks to Vinod Kumar about the recently announced Controlling of Places of Public Amusement policy 2016 and Chandigarh emerging as a tourist destination.
Chandigarh administration recently announced Controlling of Places of Public Amusement policy 2016. What is your take on the policy?
The new policy has been framed on the direction of Punjab and Haryana High Court with an aim to make places of amusement safe for guests. The policy aims at making efforts to avoid any untoward incident. However, there are few grey areas, which need to addressed for making the policy in sync with time.
What are those grey areas?
Time restriction and ban on serving liquor below the age group of 25 are the two areas that need to be fixed. As per this policy, bars, discos cannot operate beyond 12 midnight. The decision has created confusion since in the UT excise policy, bars and discos can operate till 1am. Both the policies are contradictory. We have requested the administration to relax the time restriction and lower the drinking age to 21. We are happy with the policy except for these two points.
Did these two clauses have an affect on the business?
Yes, it has affected the business. People say that their revenue has come down by 40 per cent due to the restrictions. The administration needs to reconsider both the clauses. There is no point forcing clauses which have a negative impact on business.
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Do you think such a policy is not required?
From security point of view, I would say this policy is required. If I want to go out with my family, I want to feel secure. The policy has covered the safety issue well.
Then why is there so much hue and cry about the policy?
Except for the two issues, the policy has been chalked out well. The hue and cry was made due to misrepresentation and misinterpretation of the policy in media. The policy has not suggested any dress code. The use of words such as indecency and seditious are in reference to management of hotels, bars and not for guests. Media reports created wrong impression about the policy.
What about the law and order situation? How can such incidents be checked?
Hotels and bars are providing all the security which they can provide. Those in hospitality business have their restrictions. Though we have hired our own security staff, but it does not act as a deterrent to the anti-social elements nor they have any powers.
The Chandigarh administration should ask the police to take action against those indulging in anti-social activities. If there is no fear of any action then people will indulge in fights, which maligns the name of hotel, bar where incident has taken place. There is a need to deploy more police near clubs and discotheques.
Is Chandigarh still a sleepy city or has it changed?
Chandigarh was once seen as a sleepy city. But things have changed a lot in last 15 years or so, after youngters started moving in. The city has also become a major educational hub and a large number of students come from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh are coming here for professional and vocational courses. This has helped us getting rid of sleepy town tag. Corporate tourism has also infused more life to the night life of the city. Now days, people
slog during day and want to de-stress at night.
After corporate tourism, medicine and sports tourism has also picked up. Chandigarh also has a very good sports infrastructure and international events keep taking place.
What all changes have come over the years?
Lifestyle has changed drastically. Around 10 years ago, there were very limited number of bars, discotheques and lounges in the city, which is not the case today. A good number of pubs, discotheques and round the clock coffee shops have come up in the city to cater to the changing lifestyle of the people. Those in hospitality business have also adapted well to the changing times by catering to the needs of the people.
Despite being the first planned city post independence, Chandigarh has been slow on picking the nightlife. Why is that?
Its not only the case only with Chandigarh. In 1990’s, nightlife had not picked up in any major part of the country except in metropolitan cities. The change happened quite late like in many other cities across the country. Earlier, the service class and retired people occupied most of the population, which has changed with growth in number of youngsters and corporates.
Chandigarh administration is know to be a bit rigid, did that delay blooming of the nightlife?
It would be wrong to blame the administration. Fifteen years back there was no culture of nightlife. However, things started to roll and corporates came up with several facilities to which the administration responded. You can not expect the administration to give a free hand. They have to work within the framework which at times does not go well with the business community.
What needs to be done to attract more tourist to the city?
Chandigarh is becoming more and more tourist friendly. The administration in association with the hospitality industry needs to take steps so that tourists visit the city. The tourism board needs to market Chandigarh properly as well. Many states such as Goa have adopted very aggressive marketing strategies. Similarly, Chandigarh also needs to market itself aggresively. The city has a potential of attracting large number of tourists across the globe.
There is also a need to attract investors in the hospitality sector. At present, around 60 different permissions are required for getting into hospitality business. There is no single window system and businessmen have to run from pillar to post unlike Rajasthan, which is very investor friendly. The administration needs to take a
cue from introduce it and introduce it in the city.
It has been observed that hoteliers are concerned only about their own revenue but think little about the staff.
We take utmost care of the staff. For their we had started taking service charge from customers which is divided among the staff. However, the administration declared it illegal. In every trade, we find few defaulters, but by large, hostelers are very responsible. Every trade has an underbelly.
Why do you want customers to pay for staffs welfare? Why can’t you pay it from your own pocket?
We are paying salaries as per the fixed rates. Service charges was just and additional income for them for providing services to customers . This concept is there in many countries.