FHRAI pleads PM for providing sector specific relief package

The association has pleaded the PM to immediately provision a sector specific special relief package to enable the sector in its fight for survival

Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) has submitted a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting urgent attention towards the deteriorating situation of the hospitality and tourism sector. Flagged as the ‘Most Distressed Sector due to COVID-19’ in the country, the association has pleaded the PM to immediately provision a sector specific special relief package to enable the sector in its fight for survival. With 30 per cent hotels and restaurants across the country permanently shut over the last two waves of the pandemic, the remaining operational establishments continue to run in losses even today. The hospitality industry has reported losses of a whopping sum of Rs.1.40 lakh crore with around 50 million jobs lost since the beginning of the pandemic.

“The third wave of COVID has ripped apart the hospitality industry. The recent restrictions came right in the middle of Christmas and New Year festivities and preceded the marriage season. The revenue loss incurred due to the cancellations of celebrations and bookings to the hospitality industry is conservatively estimated at Rs.200 crores. The sector somehow tried to tide over the crisis by availing the credit facility provided by the government and infusing own capital. But then, all of a sudden, the third wave came as a debilitating blow. FHRAI has knocked on the doors of all the concerned Ministries for bringing them up to speed on the existential crisis faced by sector. At present, the entire hospitality industry is hanging on by a thread and only a special relief package can reinvigorate the industry. We plead to the Hon’ble PM to offer a sector specific special relief package for the survival of the Tourism and Hospitality sector,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President, FHRAI.

The FHRAI has stated that the successive waves of the pandemic and disruptions caused by it have created a volatile economic environment in the sector. Being a highly capital-intensive industry, hospitality has to manage a lot of overhead expenses even while it is not functioning.

“After the second wave subsided and restrictions partially withdrawn, in the beginning of the third quarter of FY 2021-22, hotel and restaurant businesses saw a marginal rise in occupancies and footfalls. By the middle of December 2021, occupancies in resorts and holiday destinations had reached 60 to 70 per cent, while in the city and corporate hotels it touched approximately 25 to 30 per cent. Likewise, restaurants had just started to return to normalcy as corporate offices and businesses had opened up. Although this was much lower than the pre-COVID levels, the signs were encouraging. But things started changing for the worse by the end of December and since then there has been a drastic plummeting of rates and occupancies in hotels and footfalls in restaurants. City hotels are back to 10 to 15 per cent occupancy accompanied by low room rental rates and restaurants are deserted. Resorts and holiday destination hotels that were otherwise doing well have drastically fallen below 40 per cent,” Kohli added.

FHRAI has stated that the present restrictions imposed are almost equivalent to a lockdown. Business in hotels and restaurants is almost nil across all major locations in the country. The Association has pointed out that such restrictions compound to the existing crisis causing extensive damages to the sector. It has estimated nothing less than five years for the industry to return to the pre-pandemic levels.

“The current situation also has a cascading impact on the employment in the sector. Apart from another round of lay-offs and pay cuts, the situation will pose another serious threat before the industry in the form of unavailability of trained manpower to work in the sector. The volatility in the sector and continued disruptions has dissuaded people to continue working in the sector and large numbers have moved to other sectors for viable employment opportunities. It is staring at a dark future in the midst of increasing debt burden, obligations and statutory liabilities with no means to meet them. Under the present circumstances, without adequate support from the Government, many more hospitality establishments in the country would be compelled to shut shop,” Kohli concluded.

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