Revival out of the question, COVID-infected hospitality sector prays for survival in 2022

When the sun rises in 2022, the Indian hospitality industry will be waking up with prayers for survival. It will be desperately looking forward to some form of support from the government as revival from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic of the last two years will be an arduous journey. 

Just as the industry was beginning to see a flickering light at the end of a long tunnel towards the end of 2021, the spread of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus and subsequent extension of suspension of scheduled international passenger flights till January 31, 2022, has come as a dampener to those who were looking to have some business in the winter season. 

With inbound tourist arrivals unlikely amidst the pandemic, the industry wants the government to incentivise domestic travels with Income Tax benefits for a limited period to help the hospitality and tourism sector get up again by tapping the pent-up demand for holidays within the country. 

According to industry body Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), already 25 to 30 per cent of establishments in the organised sector comprising around 60,000 hotels and 5 lakh restaurants have already shut shop and another 15 per cent could follow suit if there is no impetus from the government to revive the sector. 

“Right now, we are not even talking about revival because I don’t think we should. We can’t revive. Revival is when you bring back something that’s gone,” FHRAI Vice-President Gurbaxish Singh Kohli told the PTI. 

The hospitality industry deals with the most “perishable commodity” because if a hotel room or a table booking can’t be sold on a particular day, “it’s gone forever”, he said. 

“So, revival is out of the question. First you need to survive ... our lost business is lost forever,” Mr Kohli said, adding that certain people have utilised their funds kept for expansion and growth to meet contingency and working capital expenses and are now running out of cash. 

Expressing similar views, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) President Kabir Suri said: “Most of us are still trying to survive. There are a few that are sort of trying to revive, but I cannot say that everyone’s on revival. I would assume 60 per cent of people are still trying to survive, and any new disruption would only cause further pain.” 

Reflecting on how badly the sector has been hit by the pandemic, he said: “There has been quite a lot of erosion when it comes to our industry, 30 per cent of restaurants across India have shut down permanently.”

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