The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hotel industry in Kerala

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The pandemic has severely dented the hotel industry. An industry that thrived on feeding hundreds of people daily is now going through tough times. Most of the hotels had to shut down during the lockdown. Though some of the restaurants were allowed to function with only takeaway and home delivery services, this facility has been mostly available in towns. At least 40% of hotels are still shut down. Around 3000 hotels and their staff are still struggling to make ends meet.

Since most of the hotels were still not allowing dine-in service, waiters and cleaning staff haven’t been able to get back to work. The shorter working hours have only added to their woes. It is those eateries near railway stations and bus stands that were open 24/7 that have been majorly hit by this new rule. They had to completely do away with the late-night shift.

Hotels used to be the interim relief during travels. It wasn’t simply for a meal that we used to visit a hotel, it was also to freshen up and take a leisurely break in between. But the takeaway only options also put a lid to such small pleasures. Naturally, the number of customers also started reducing in hotels. That really affected the economics of the hotel industry.

Hotels are required to provide a minimum sum of Rs 2000 as electricity bill once in two months. And they have to give a minimum of Rs 7500 as GST. Even banks are no longer prepared to give loans to hotels. Or you have to pledge your title deed to the bank. Since the hotel owners were unable to pay EMI on time, the banks are also losing interest. Though the other industries received concession in interest rates, the hotel industry got none.

Though for Moratorium they got an extension to pay back EMI, they had to pay the increased interest rates. Not only is the current income enough to give the building rent, electricity bill, electricity fixed charge, different taxes, license fees, cooking cylinder, grocery rates, food safety program, but they are also required to take a loan for this purpose. If they get a sale of Rs 20,000, the profit will only come to Rs 2000.

From hotel to auto driving
Thaliparambu: Thaliparambu Aadikkumparayil Abdul Jalil (39) was forced to shut his hotel business, which was started by his father 28 years ago owing to the pandemic, and take up a job as an auto driver. That apart he has to still pay back the hotel rent dues (1 and a half lakhs).

When even during the lockdown he was required to pay the electricity bill and building rent which came to Rs 17,000, he decided to shut down the hotel. His father Batali Muhammed Kunji started this hotel near Chiravakathu Lourde Hospital premises 28 years ago. But 20 years ago, they moved this hotel near Chiravakkil opposite to the old Education department office near the National Highway.

Till the lockdown, Jalil along with his father and 5 others worked in the hotel. A guest laborer was also working there who later went back to his hometown. Rest are currently making odd jobs as labourers. It was after his 68-year-old father retired that Jalil decided to run an auto-rickshaw for a living. Though they managed to open their hotel after months, unfortunately, the customers were very few. It didn’t help that nearby there were a lot of new roadside eateries. And they were forced to shut down. “Even now I am not sure how I will be able to pay the dues and that too such a large sum (Rs 1 and a half lakhs) with interest,” says Jalil who has conveyed the matter to the building owner.

One week works, two weeks at home
Thalassery: Dharmadam Chathodam Thoufeeq Manasilin PM Sajir has been a hotel employee for the last 25 years. He has been a hotel supplier in Palakkad for 15 years. He came back to his hometown a few years ago. For the past 5 years he is working in Thalasseri Paris hotel. Covid typically proved to be a harrowing time for him. He sat at home without work for months during the first wave. Just when he started going for work, came the second wave. And then lockdown. He sat at home for three months. Though he rejoined work post the lockdown, it wasn’t like before as the dine-in service hadn’t yet started. Since the hotels were only allowed take-away and home delivery Sajir’s working days also altered. If he worked for a week, he had to sit at home for two weeks. Since he doesn’t have a home of his own, Sajir lives in his wife’s house.

He also has a son who is studying in Plus two. The house was run on his income. His mother also stays with him. Since the working days are few, the family is struggling to make ends meet. He is not able to even pay off his loans. Sadly most of his co-workers' plight remains the same.

Popular hotel remained shut
This once-popular hotel run by a group of women headed by the Alokodu Janashri Mission had to be shut down owing to the pandemic. This hotel is run by 10 women couldn’t reopen even after the lockdown restrictions were lifted. The hotel which was in a rented building also has a lot of dues to pay.

A tale of survival
This hotel near the airport managed to stay alive even when the airport was shut down following the pandemic. This hotel which runs under the Airport Area Labour Contract Cooperative society is usually frequented by the airport staff. Though the customers decreased following the airport shutdown, the hotel remained open and today gives parcel service.

The hotel which had 23 employees has reduced its staff to 13. They also undertake spot deliveries. During the first lockdown when the first flight landed with NRIs all the passengers were given free food from this hotel. This was done with the cooperation of NRI organisations. The hotel which used to be open 24/7 now shuts shop by midnight.  

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