A DAY after the Centre issued guidelines for phase 3 of its Covid unlockdown, the Delhi government Thursday allowed hotels to reopen in a move that was welcomed by the hospitality industry although concerns remain on the challenges involved, ranging from a severe staff crunch to the renewal of licences that have lapsed.
The state government said that a decision has been taken to allow the normal functioning of hotels, along with hospitality services — these were already permitted under the Union Home Ministry’s guidelines issued on June 4.
The government said that it took the step since hotels in Delhi are no longer attached with hospitals to provide quarantine facilities for Covid patients.
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However, official sources said that a decision on reopening gyms, which has been allowed under the Centre’s latest guidelines, has been deferred in the capital till next week amid concerns over the potential spread of Covid in closed spaces. “Officials will discuss the apprehensions and revisit the decision next week,” sources said.
On the move to reopen hotels, Sandeep Khandelwal, president of the Delhi Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association, under which a chain of budget hotels operate, described the decision as a “beginning”.
“It will take time for business to revive and we are not expecting much till the end of August. But it is a beginning nonetheless. There will be an intense staff crunch. However, the primary challenge will be in terms of renewing a number of licences that we require to operate, most importantly, fire licences that have not been renewed this entire season,” Khandelwal said.
According to government estimates, there are about 55 five-star, 120 four-star, 1,800 three-star and 1500 budget hotels in the city.
The managements of several hotels declined to comment on the government’s decision, citing the lack of an official order. However, executives involved in running many of these facilities agreed with Khandelwal that they are not expecting business till the end of August.
The management of The Suryaa, a five-star hotel, said the decision was “welcome”, especially since no Covid patient was shifted to its premises despite the facility being attached with Holy Family Hospital.
Greesh Bindra, vice-president (operations) of The Suryaa told The Indian Express: “The order on reopening is still awaited. However, for now, we can say it is a welcome step. The reopening involves a lot of challenges and won’t be at one go, but gradual. The private offices that operate out of the hotel premises can resume work, for one.”
Asked about the staff crunch, a senior executive in the industry said many hotels would operate with a limited capacity. “Say, a hotel has 200 rooms, it will reopen with 50 rooms. Staff will also be called accordingly. The coffee shops and the restaurants will be opened. But business will not pick up unless bars and pubs are allowed. Banquet halls need to be allowed as well and that will make sense only after the cap on guests during marriages or social functions are done away with,” said the executive, who did not wish to be identified.
In its June 4 SOP, the Centre had listed a series of “generic guidelines”, such as advising persons above 65 years of age, those with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 to stay at home. Apart from mandating the use of masks and sanitisers, and stressing on social distancing, the SOP had said that only asymptomatic staff and guests would be allowed in hotels.
In its latest guidelines, the Centre said that schools and colleges, Metro rail services, cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls shall continue to remain shut until August 31.
“Social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions and other large congregations” will also not be allowed, it said. For containment zones, the government has extended the severe curbs in place till August-end.
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