BENGALURU: Hospitality has been one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic and lockdown. The sector that contributes around 14.8 per cent to the state GDP came to a grinding halt during this difficult phase but is now gradually clawing its way back.
While those associated with the sector say direct monetary losses are difficult to ascertain as many commercial establishments have gone out of business, which speaks for itself, they say it is the only sector that is on an upswing after unlocking. This sector also gives an indication to people’s general mindset, they say.
There were thin crowds at popular destinations, like the Hampi-Gokarna-Goa circuit, river rafting spots, beaches, heritage sites and hill stations.
This and lack of workers led to many hotels and restaurants shutting down as they had zero or minimal business.Karnataka Hoteliers’ Association president Chandrasekhar Hebbar said that 50 per cent of hotels and restaurants across the state have shut completely and most of them are in urban areas like Bengaluru, Mangaluru, Belagavi, Hubballi and Gokarna.
Hebbar said, “Apart from the lockdown, floods too did the damage. Most of the businesses that have shut are unlikely to open again. It is not just restaurants and bars, even resorts and hotels have closed. Also, catering services have not restarted still, and choultries are yet to pick up the pace because of restrictions on gatherings,” Hebbar said.
In some districts, even after Unlock was announced, deputy commissioners clamped lockdowns locally, affecting the hospitality business. The worst-hit were properties around Chamarajanagar, HD Kote, Chikkamagaluru and Shivamogga.
Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) Managing Director Kumar Pushkar said that during April-August last year while there was 80 per cent occupancy in all nine prime properties, this year the business was zero till June and negligible in July.
Around 15 per cent business was seen in August.He said that none of the 21 package tours have started, and enquiries are only for the KSTDC package tour to Tirumala-Tirupati, which is still to start as the holy shrine has not yet opened its doors to devotees.
At Hampi, before the pandemic, the footfall was around 4,000, generating a revenue of around Rs 10 lakh per day. But in the whole of last three months, only 5,000 people have visited. Many star hotels in Bengaluru, to ensure that their chefs and other employees are employed and to keep the money rolling in, have started food trucks and are also selling gourmet meals online.
Revenue collections at Mysuru Palace, which saw 3,80,282 visitors during Dasara in October 2019 and 3,29,700 in 2018, have been badly hit. The Mysuru zoo attracted 32,301 visitors in 2018 and 30,273 in 2019 on Vijayadashami Day. Last year, the zoo generated Rs 1.59 crore during 10 days of Dasara.
Tourism Minister C T Ravi said, “Around 30 per cent of the hospitality sector has revived and this is because of intra-state travel and not due to visitors from other. If a number has to be put then the loss is about Rs 20-25 crore, including in the private sector. Hotels, taxis, guides, tour operating agencies and travel agents have all taken a major beating.”
He said that there is no specific way to revive the sector and it can happen only when the confidence of people is restored.
“It will take another six months for the sector to recover fully,” he predicted.
Properties run by Jungle Lodges and Resorts have shown a promising response. JLR Managing Director Vijay Sharma said that from April to August last year, 32,694 people visited, generating Rs 2,032 crore. During the same period this year, 5,810 people have visited and Rs 369 crore has been earned.
“Around 70 per cent of the business has recovered. From August 23, large crowds from Tamil Nadu are coming to Bandipur, from Maharashtra and Goa to Dandeli and from Bengaluru to Kabini and K Gudi,” he said.
Resorts and hotels that have managed to tide over the crisis are offering huge discounts now, just to stay in the business. At KSTDC, rooms are being given at 20-50 per cent discount, depending on the footfall, while others are letting go of their profits to draw tourists.
Mysuru hotels, for example, instead of focusing on advance bookings for the pre-Dasara season are now spending their energies on staying afloat.
“Till last year, it was about profit margins during Dasara and getting rooms during the season was difficult. But now we just want to manage the show by wooing customers with maximum discounts,” said Akram, who runs Badsha Residency at Bannimantap in Mysuru.
Mysuru Hotel Owners’ Association president Narayanagowda said they have seen a 10 per cent increase in walk-in customers to restaurants and bookings at lodges, as compared to last month. The numbers were also higher because of NEET, he said.
In Dandeli, which is a prime destination for white water rafting, Umesh G E from Manasa Adventures, said, “Usually, we are packed, but this year business is just 20 per cent. We have even decided to offer some services free and extend discounts till December so we do not have to shut down. Most properties around here have closed because of lack of revenues.”
Resort and homestay owners in Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru have come up with unique offers and schemes, like ‘Workations’ or “Carry-your-school-and-office to a holiday”, to tourists. They offer combined stay-and-work, treks, safari and cycling. Others are giving away a day free for a two-day stay.
(With K Shivakumar in Mysuru and Amit S Upadhye in Hubballi)