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Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Maharashtra: International travel curbs, domestic tourism slump leave hotels struggling with low occupancy

With international travel restrictions still in place and domestic tourism at a standstill, hotel owners and associations say customer footfall was languishing at 10 per cent.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Updated: August 2, 2020 1:01:12 pm
maharashtra coronavirus latest updates, maharashtra lockdown, maharashtra international travel ban, international flights banned india, maharashtra tourism hit by covid, mumbai city news The state government had allowed hotel and other entities providing accommodation services, including guest houses and lodges, outside Covid-19 containment zones to resume operation with 33 per cent occupancy from July 8.

Nearly a month since the state government gave hotels a go-ahead to reopen as part of its ‘Mission Begin Again’, they are still struggling due to low occupancy. With international travel restrictions still in place and domestic tourism at a standstill, hotel owners and associations say customer footfall was languishing at 10 per cent.

The state government had allowed hotel and other entities providing accommodation services, including guest houses and lodges, outside Covid-19 containment zones to resume operation with 33 per cent occupancy from July 8. Owners said while they had not expected business to go back to the pre-Covid normal at least for a year, they were hopeful of a slow and steady revival.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), said occupancy in most establishments has not even crossed 10 per cent. “Most hotels have seen only single-digit occupancy since they have reopened [after the coronavirus induced lockdown]. Most geared up to open as they had suffered losses in the 3-4 months when they were completely shut. But now, keeping them open is proving to be costly too as the costs have to be incurred to maintain facilities,” Kohli said. He added unless an impetus was extended to the tourism industry, allied factors, including employment of those working in hotels, cannot be brought on track.

While allowing hotels to resume operations, the state government had enlisted a host of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that include digital check-ins and menu cards, and staggered timings to manage overcrowding in common areas like the lobby or the elevators. Hotel owners had welcomed the state government’s move despite a prohibition on the use of gyms, swimming pools and gaming areas. Restaurants within the hotels are also allowed to be accessible only to guests staying in the hotel.

“Unfortunately, it has been worse than earlier. There are no customers. With no international travel, and people choosing not to travel domestically unless it is essential, most hotels are finding it difficult to find occupants for their rooms. There are no bookings by corporates or for weddings either and this is likely to continue. A few hotels near the domestic and international airport are getting a few customers but not enough to even cover overhead costs,” said Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) president, Shivanand Shetty. He added that until there was a push to restore domestic tourism, this situation would continue.

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