Tourism is a vehicle for earning revenue and the government should support it: V Kamat, CMD, Kamat Hotels
Dr Vithal V. Kamat, Chairman and Managing Director, Kamat Hotels (India) Ltd, talks about the impact of new lockdown and restrictions of the business, usage of hotels as quarantine centre, new bookings and cancellation, support from the government, government decision to vaccinate everyone above 18 in age among others during an interview with Mansee Dave,
Dr Vithal V. Kamat, Chairman and Managing Director, Kamat Hotels (India) Ltd, talks about the impact of new lockdown and restrictions of the business, usage of hotels as quarantine centre, new bookings and cancellation, support from the government, government decision to vaccinate everyone above 18 in age among others during an interview with Mansee Dave, Zee Business. Edited Excerpts:
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Q: How the recent night curfews, lockdown and restrictions are impacting your business? Also, update us about the kind of losses are you incurring due to these restrictions?
A: It is such that we will have to live with the CORONA. For this, you should take precaution instead of fearing CORONA. It was difficult when it came for the first time, but now when it has hit for the second time, we have opened, ‘Isolation in Luxury’ with the best of the in-house medical care in Pune, Mumbai and other places. The hotels that had two wings, which were separate from each other, we used to keep the asymptomatic guests or those who wanted to quarantine themselves. So, we get bookings at our hotels for quarantine purposes and people come here. Utmost care is provided to them. It has had a 15-25% contribution to the business that we have done in the last one year. Secondly, weddings, which used to have the participation of 100-200 people have reduced to a maximum of 50, due to the restrictions from the government. Those who have to marry will not postpone it by a year or two, so the volume of weddings, which used to be huge, has turned small. Apart from this, people who are supposed for essential services are coming to our hotels. The first time, when Corona hit, we were not aware a lot about it but now, we have staff members and other people. Interestingly, the guests on their visit ask us to check their temperature and take precautions from their end. So, it has had an impact on the business but learns the art to live with is a big thing.
Q: A lot of your workers, who might be migrants, would have left the city amid the lockdown and restrictions. How are you handling your employees?
A: We do not call our workers, workers, they are our business partners. Kamat Hotel – the corporate – has been in existence for the last 76 years. My father started it and I am 52 now and have been into it. So, there is no worker with me, everyone is a business partner with us. Shareholders are also our partners and those who work with us are also partners to us. So, they have understood their responsibilities. When it was good they were with us and today when bad times are there, we will not leave them. We have made adjustments at our place. Those, whose holidays were left, have taken leaves and those who have to take will take. It is done on an alternative basis. Most of our hotels are open 24 hours and we have made adjustments to this. There was just one thing, hiring of new employees and we are not doing it. We are running with the old ones as they have been working with us for so many days. People and trainees from other places - like Shimla, Jadhavgadh, and the destination located in Konkan, where people go - who want to work nearby their homes have been posted there. So, from that perspective, almost every person is getting work but the workdays have reduced.
Q: What is the occupancy rate situation at your hotels? Also, is there any of your hotel that is being used for COVID-19 patients?
A: We have given two hotels of 200 rooms each. In Mumbai, we have VITS near the Airport. COVID patients are not here, but we have provided 200 rooms for people who are quarantine, who can be asymptomatic or don’t have the symptoms, with full facilities including the doctors as well as Oxygen. It has an advantage in which if there is husband and wife, both can stay in different rooms at the same place. With this, you also have the facility of the doctor as well as Oxygen. The biggest thing is that their mind remains fresh. There is stress in the mind for those who are living in hospitals while there is no stress to people who are living here. To date, no such case has come here, but if we find such symptoms in the guests then we take them to the hospital. Today, we are living in a condition where people think, about getting themselves admitted to the hospital if something happens to them. So, genuine patients do not get the chance. In such a situation, those who are not suffering but have chances to suffer can stay here. In fact, it is similar to preparation for the prelim examination.
Q: Update us about the situation of bookings and how many cancellations are visible or new bookings are happening?
A: The regular things those have been cancelled at our place include wedding and events. But, the foreign visitors, who travel on ships for 15-20 days or six months, stay at our hotels for 15 days, then get their medical certificates from doctors and move to other countries. Similarly, we have different people who are required, like in mining, shipping, electronic projects or some other projects, stays here and checked well. Then they catch their flights in the next 8-10 days because they have to tell that they do not have any disease. This is why they stay here. The rate of these facilities are low but the car is running. Having something instead of having nothing is better.
Q: Recently, the government has decided to vaccinate everyone above 18 years of age from May 1, 2021. Do you think that this will help in a quick revival of the industry?
A: It will give relief to every industry. If people aged 18 would have been the CORONA carrier, it would have gone wrong. So, I think it is a commendable step for the government. Of course, it is good for our industry, it is good for every industry. It is good for our industry because the teens and young people of our industry like to move out to eat and drink. So, I feel that after getting vaccinated they will maintain precautions but will not be the corona carriers. Vaccination will help them in carrying the antibodies. So, it is a good step and I appreciate it.
Q: Do you have any expectation from the government in form of any additional support from it? Also, to revive hospitality, China has announced Revenge tourism. Do you think that India should also announce any such incentive for the industry?
A: To be true, I feel, the state, as well as the central government, does not know that there is an industry in the name of the tourism industry. This makes me sad because I have spent 52 years in this industry and my father has spent 72 years here. It is not some other industry. We are in an industry and around 2,500-3,000 people are working with us. It is a situation in which those who call me impatient should have had some patience. You would have not given a second wound at least when the old wounds were yet green. New wounds are coming every day and we are handling them, but we also have a limit, everyone has a limit. We are not begging from the government, we need support or else it will be very difficult. If tourism will not be there in India, then the domestic income will not reach the state as well as the centre. So, the state should also understand that if they want to increase the income of the state, then tourism should be increased. Tourism is a vehicle for earning revenue. Other countries have understood it but our country had not. Even today, old things are not taken care of, such things are found in Konkan and other places, but it is a very big thing to handle them. So, I pray to the government to keep every industry alive but what keeps everyone alive, tourism, should also be kept alive, everything starts from there. I would pray that it should be formed anew and protect the tourism industry.
Q: Result season has started and fourth-quarter results are being announced. What is your view on the results and any write-offs, inventory loss, impairment loss are expected?
A: It is such that, if there is 50% business in our industry, then a break-even happens. So, we are close to break-even. Currently, business is running like the waves in the sea, it improves for a month or two – i.e. business reaches to 50-55%. But, now, due to the new lockdowns and other conditions, the business has reduced and its impact will be felt for another 3-6 months. Travelling is currently closed completely and in the next 1-2 days, lockdowns will be announced in some more states. People do not travel amid the lockdown and they must not do so. I don’t feat that any hotel or hotel industry and hospitality industry in the world is doing good business at present. It will take some time and for that time, we will have to give some time to ourselves.
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