Hoteliers worried about prospects in festive season

Mumbai, Dec 14: With Christmas and New Year round the corner, hotels and restaurants in the western region are worried about their prospects in the festive season for a variety of reasons, including the lacklustre celebrations in 2012-13.

Last year, the industry was plagued by an economic slowdown, higher taxes and delays in government permissions for their efforts to lure customers. In the process, hotels and restaurants fell short of their targets by as high as 45 percent in 2012.

“This year, we have already started preparations. But our major problem is the delays in permissions, sometimes as late as 5 p.m. on the day of the events,” said Hotel & Restaurant Association of Western India President (HRAWI) D.S. Advani.

In a letter to the state chief secretary, Advani had said though these are annual celebrations, the government does not grant a blanket permission to enable the hotels and restaurants chalk out their traditional programmes for the customers.

Besides, HRAWI has demanded the timings for events must be uniform in all the areas of the state and in tune with the prohibition and excise departments.

“Last year, following an arbitrary hike in entertainment duty, many five star hotels and restaurants could not hold New Year special functions. The reason given was an ambiguous clause of ‘loud music’, but celebrations cannot be held without music,” Advani said.

With many hotels and restaurants unable to comply or afford, they simply dropped their New Year celebrations, resulting in huge losses for the industry and the state government with patrons moving out to places in Goa or Karnataka, he pointed out.

HRAWI’s former chief Kamlesh Barot said the amendments to the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act, 1923 has also spelt doom for the industry with exorbitant taxes at various levels.

“We have been forced to shut down live entertainment for the patrons and consequently, many folk artists, musicians and singers have been rendered unemployed,” Barot said.

Confronted by these duties and taxes, the HRAWI feels that if the state government does not initiate measures immediately, the celebrations this year would also be dull and loss-making besides hitting the domestic and foreign tourists.

Founded by the late J.R.D. Tata, the 63-year old HRAWI is part of Federation of Hotels & Restaurants Associations of India and looks after the interests of members in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa and union territories of Daman, Diu & Silvassa.

IANS