Hotels in Kerala await govt nod to resume dine-in facility

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For many experienced hoteliers, the pandemic has turned out to be a nightmare. “This is the first time in my life that the business is running in loss,” says M O Balakrishnan Nair, who has been in the hotel business for over 32 years. The business was going in full swing for the hotel owner until the pandemic outbreak brought his life to a grinding halt.

“For the past one-and-a-half years, the business has been a total disappointment. Though takeaways and home deliveries have been allowed, it doesn’t generate much profit for us. With zero dine-in, we have barely 20 per cent of our pre-covid business now.

On some days, there is hardly any business,” said Balakrishnan, owner at Murali Hotel in Thampanoor.
Balakrishnan says nearly a lakh of people in the state depend on the hotel and restaurant industry and they are struggling ever since the government imposed restrictions on dining in. “There were about 11 employees in my hotel but currently we are functioning with just two of them as it is difficult to pay their salaries,” he says. 

Thampanoor, one of the prime spots in the city consisting of a large number of tourists lodges and hotels, has been hardly getting any guests since March 2020. “As Nipah cases are reported in the state, there has been a fall in the number of people visiting from the Malabar region which has further affected our business,” says Balakrishnan, who is also the Thampanoor unit president of the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA).

However, some restaurants have made temporary arrangements for their customers to have their food conveniently, especially outlets functioning near hospitals. “My family has been running a vegetarian hotel near the SP Fort hospital for more than a decade and we have a large customer base. Although we have been able to do about 60 per cent of our usual business, the hotels near us serving non-vegetarian dishes are having a tough time. Our customers are mostly people visiting the hospitals. Since dine-in has not been permitted, often the bystanders at the hospital are forced to have their food near the roadsides. So, we have arranged a temporary area in our parking space,” says S Krishnakumar, owner at Sri Udupi Hotel and Lodge.

Krishnakumar, who is a fourth-generation restaurateur says “We were forced to reduce the staff during the second wave. Not just the staff, those supplying plantain leaves and toiletries have also been affected by the restrictions on dine-in service. We hope that we get a positive reply from the government soon.”
Meanwhile, as the chief minister assured KHRA of a positive solution to their problems after a meeting to be held on Tuesday, the organisation have put a hold on the protest at the secretariat which was scheduled on September 16.

“Takeaways and deliveries account for only 40 percent of the business. Though dine-in is permitted in assembly canteens, collectorates and police canteens, it is not the same with hotels and restaurants. Most restaurants are going through a severe financial crisis but are still forced to pay building rent and other taxes such as the Goods and Services Tax. Some hotels owners have died by suicide. There are others, who are on the verge of suicide. We hope that the issue is resolved soon,” says B Vijayakumar, secretary of KHRA Thiruvananthapuram.

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