Hospitality industry needs government’s support; its closure will leave 3.50 crore people jobless: Dr. Vithal Kamat, CMD, Kamat Hotels
Dr Vithal V. Kamat, Chairman and Managing Director, Kamat Hotels (India) Ltd., talks about the impact of the Corona Pandemic on the hotel industry, revenue forecasts growth expectations and why the government should come forward to help Indian hotel and hospitality industry among others during a candid chat with Mansee Dave, Zee Business. Edited Excerpts:
Q: Certainly, CORONA pandemic has had an impact on each sector and industry including the hotel industry. How have been your numbers and what was CORONA’s impact on it?
A: It is so that our industry can help the government and the world a lot. Aviation, hospitality and travel & tour can help a lot in bringing back the environment that existed in the past. And, this industry is being neglected in India, at present. It seems that people, the government at the centre and state, think that the industry is not necessary. But, until a normal environment is not created then till then not only our industry but no industry will be able to perform, because our three-point industry, namely aviation, hospitality and travel & tour, create a good feeling in the mind of the people. People start spending when the environment is good and this will not happen. The state government has opened the hotels in the recent past but the flights are low. No one will travel. First have a look at foreign travel, where the foreign travellers decide the destination, i.e. the country and city, that they want to visit, some half and a year to two years in advance. The domestic travellers are very loyal to themselves. But what has happened today is that the ladies who had put their money aside as a reserve has been invested. So there will be no travel-related talks. Thirdly, CORONA has not been brought under control, yet, and no vaccine has been developed and people do not feel nice to be at the bed that has been used earlier by someone else. Their mind is full of these things. So the government should help the hospitality industry, aviation and travel & tour and exports like us can sit with them and tell them and then they can decide on it. We don’t need any favouritism but we need support. Apart from this, we need a time of one and a half year to two to fill the instalments of our investments. Otherwise, 1.20 lakh hotels and restaurants in Mumbai and Maharashtra will be shut down and 3.50 crore people will turn jobless.
Q: Unlock phases have started and the state government has allowed the opening of hotels at 100% capacity from September 2, 2020, Do you think that the revenue can reach to the pre-COVID levels, if yes, then can you tell the time by which it can happen?
A: The revenue will take at least one-and-a-half to two years to reach the pre-COVID level if the atmosphere is good. And, if it goes the way it is happening, now, then it may take at least three-four years. Every state government has taken steps. For instance, the Odisha government has opened tourism in a good manner. People including worshippers who are visiting Konark, Odisha, are staying at our hotels. People coming to our hotels are first steamed because just providing sanitizer is not going to work. Steam should be taken at least twice or thrice in a day and we explain this to our guests. The God is obliged and at the same time, the care offered by our people has helped us in ensuring that no one has fallen sick, yet and it should be put in the minds of people. When you put it in the mind that Corona is there and you must not fear if you take care of yourselves. It is an upgraded form of influenza that’s why you need to be careful, increase your immunity and hygiene. Thus, the government and industry should come together.
Q: If we talk about the end of the calendar year then what is the occupancy level that is expected?
A: It is so that until the Vaccine is not out then no one can talk about the future because if people manage to forget travel and do not travel then things will turn difficult. Secondly, colleges, schools and industries will be opened. Almost 50% of the industry is working from home. The third thing is that people who were moving on pilgrimages and youths who were touring outside are not being allowed to travel. So today it is not possible that you can predict the strength of the industry. If our industry is exempted and a proper atmosphere is provided then we can help the government a lot in this. It may take around one to one-and-a-half year in normalizing the situation.
Q: You have talked about the support from the government and if provided then the sector can play an important role in normalizing things. So, talk about the kind of expectations that you have from the government or any initiative that you would like to talk about?
A: First of all, the tourism minister should sit with the experts of the hotel and restaurant industry and talk about the existing problems and the problem that may occur, going forward from here. Right now, the payment of the bank’s instalment is the biggest problem at present. The second problem is related to youths who have started their small restaurants and those restaurants can never open because they have either taken a loan from their parents or the banks. Few parents have provided their provident fund in those and they should be supported. If we do not promote them then the roadside restaurants will be closed but the small slum and ferries will start, which is likely to spread the pandemic and destroy the hygiene of the city. So, it is very important to support these people.
We don’t need any concession but we need time. The time is that we will not be able to pay your instalments and if it is not made then foreign investors will come to India and buy all Indian hotels, after which probably no Indian hotelier will be left. Chinese people and others will come and invest here and the hotels will be sold cheaply and there will be no support for them. So with folded hands, I would like to request the government to save the Indian hospitality industry, which is unique in itself in the world’s hospitality industry. Save Atithi Devo Bhavah that is spoken.