Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President of FHRAI and President of HRAWI, pleads the authorities to take the hospitality industry seriously and to stop perceiving it as elitist but recognise its capability and potential. Hotels, he says, are the backbone of tourism and without them, tourism itself cannot bounce back.
Q What is the current status of opening of hotels and restaurants in Maharashtra?
Hotels in the state have been open since July 8, but restaurants have not yet been given the permission to do so. We have been trying to convince the government, both at the Centre as well as the state, to permit restaurants to open. We have submitted elaborate presentations outlining all the safety and precautionary measures that restaurants will voluntarily adopt to ensure social distancing. Ideally, restaurants could have begun operations along with hotels if not earlier.
Hotel occupancies in the state are in single digits, i.e. below 10 per cent, but we are hopeful. Hotel occupancies in these months are usually low, but post-September, we are hoping for it to go up. Also, we are receiving a steady trickle in booking enquiries, so until September, it is mostly a wait-and-watch game.
Q Tourism cannot restart unless hotels are open. Your thoughts?
True. Hospitality is rightly called the backbone of tourism. Tourists require accommodation if they decide to travel and also need a place to eat at. So, it all goes hand in hand. If hotels don’t open, tourists will not travel and if tourists don’t travel, it will affect tourism. It will especially affect domestic tourism which right now is the only option for tourists.
Q What will be your message to the Indian government?
We want the authorities to take a serious view of this industry. Hospitality can become one of the major breadwinners for the country. Given the right support, hospitality and tourism have the potential to turn the clock around. For this, the government has to stop imagining or perceiving the industry as an elitist one and recognise its capability and potential. Both FHRAI and HRAWI have been constantly engaging with the concerned ministries at the state and all-India level. It remains to be seen how serious they are about our survival.
Q Is there any positive follow-up from the tourism minister of Maharashtra?
We understand the apprehension of the governments and the authorities. We also appreciate the caution with which it is unlocking sectors. We are positive that the State Tourism Minister is doing his best and we have his assurance and support. The unfortunate part is that for over four months, the industry has been in complete lockdown which has spelled doom for several establishments. Those that are managing to hold on to their businesses are walking a tightrope. With each passing day, these businesses are moving closer to a permanent shutdown scenario. So, we urge the government and the respective authorities to expedite the decision-making process to avoid a scenario which becomes irreversible in the future. We also assure the government of our commitment to ensuring guest safety and will be available for any further deliberations on the matter, if required.
Q Your message to travel agents from other states who are looking to send their clients on holidays?
Maharashtra’s hospitality industry welcomes guests from across India. Needless to say, everyone is apprehensive and even today, there is no way to tell how long it will take before we are completely rid of it. But what we can assure our patrons is our commitment towards their safety.
Validity extension of FHRAI Discount Card
Owing to the nationwide lockdown, the association has been unable to start the membership renewal process, print and distribute the new FHRAI Discount Cards for FY 2020-21. FHRAI has therefore decided to extend the validity of the cards of FY 2019-20. The card issued to establishments due to expire on June 30, 2020 shall be considered valid till August 31, 2020.