|28 March, 2020

Hotels in Bahrain take stock as tourism is hit

Hotels are literally handicapped now because Covid-19 has hit their revenues big time

Image used for illustrative purpose. Light Trails On Road In City Against Sky Photo Taken In Al Muharraq, Bahrain.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Light Trails On Road In City Against Sky Photo Taken In Al Muharraq, Bahrain.

Getty Images/ Aditya Kothari / EyeEm

Hoteliers across the country are reviewing their contingency plans, with some downsizing operations, as the Covid-19 pandemic hits the tourism sector.

Industry experts told the GDN that the hospitality industry has to ride the wave before an actual assessment of local and international losses is conducted.

In the last two months the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19) has immensely affected the sector worldwide, with some properties in Bahrain asking their staff to stay home on unpaid leave or annual vacation, while others have been asked to take pay cuts.

Businessman Hameed Al Halwachi, who is on the hospitality and tourism committee of the country’s main business body, the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), said four- and five-star properties need a minimum of 30 per cent occupancy levels to sustain operations.

“Hotels are literally handicapped now because Covid-19 has hit their revenues big time,” he said.

“The situation is even worse than 2011 in Bahrain because many hotels have asked their staff to go on leave and the occupancy levels are between 1pc to 5pc.

“Airlines have suspended operations and King Fahad Causeway is closed (since March 8) which have significantly reduced the number of tourists arriving in the country.”

Visa on arrival for all nationalities was suspended from March 18 as part of travel restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, which has claimed three lives in Bahrain.

Other key measures have also been taken in the fight against the coronavirus, including closing all non-essential businesses until April 9.

Public gatherings of more than five people have also been banned, with strict measures to be taken against violators.

Classes in all public and private schools have also been suspended until further notice, while movie theatres, fitness centres and recreational facilities have been closed.

People have also been asked to only leave their homes to go to work or hospitals or to buy medicines and other essential requirements.

“Some of the hotels are manning their operations with less than 10pc of their staff,” added Mr Al Halwachi.

“We are hoping the situation starts to stabilise by May and when the causeway is opened, but until then we are on the edge.”

Meanwhile, Promoseven Holdings Group chairman Akram Miknas said they are working on different strategies to mitigate the impact on their 300 employees working in the hospitality sector.

“I would suggest hoteliers to take it easy for a while and restudy their situation and talk with banks and other entities,” he said.

Infancy

“Tourism is in the infancy stage here when we compare with the numbers (of tourists) in France, Italy or even Dubai.

“Our dependence is still mostly on oil as income, but getting back to the situation, everyone in their own size is being affected.

“Tourists visit the country and stay in hotels, dine out in restaurants, travel by taxis and shop in malls – it’s a big chain.”

Projections that were released last year showed that Bahrain was working to attract 12.2 million visitors this year, an equivalent increase of 5pc.

sandy@gdn.com.bh

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