Five-star hotels in Bangladesh are seeking alternative opportunities to make up for their losses amid the novel coronavirus crisis.
Some hotels have launched home delivery food services, while others have started iftar services during the holy month of Ramadan. However, these alternatives are not sufficiently recovering their huge losses, said the hoteliers.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) has set aside 22 of its hotels and motels, nationwide, for doctors and nurses who are treating novel coronavirus patients.
Ram Chandra Dash, chairman of the BPC, said, "We have set aside 22 hotels and motels across the country for healthcare professionals according to the government's decision. We are estimating the costs of the services and will submit the bills to the authorities concerned."
Although the BPC hotels are expecting to be paid in full for their services, no decision has been finalised in this regard, said the BPC chairman.
"The novel coronavirus has shut down our business. Although the BPC is a government institution, as a commercial body we have to rely on our business profits," he added.
The government has also taken an initiative to ensure accommodation for healthcare professionals at some upper-class hotels including: Pacific Lake View Hotel and Resort Ltd, Hotel Abakash, Hotel Zakaria International Limited, Maple Leaf and Milina Hotel, Grand Prince Hotel, Hotel Dreamland Int, Hotel Razmoni Ishakha, FARS, Hotel 71, Hotel Sagarika, Grand Circle Inn, Hotel Shalimar Int'l, Dhaka.
However, the five-star hotels are not providing services for healthcare workers during the pandemic.
"The money allocated for each person is Tk2,500 per day – including food and accommodation. It is not possible for us to provide services for such an amount in a five-star hotel. That is why we are not involved in the service", said an official of a five-star hotel wishing to remain anonymous.
He said that healthcare professionals are staying at hotels other than the five-star ones.
According to industry insiders, almost all the hotels are suffering due to the novel coronavirus outbreak as guest occupancy has fallen drastically.
The hoteliers said their businesses have three main aspects: renting rooms, renting banquet halls and running a restaurant business.
Room and banquet hall rentals have dropped to almost zero at most of the hotels amid the pandemic. Now, some hotels have started delivering food to customers' homes to recover some losses.
"The crisis may continue until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus is invented. However, we do not know how many months we will have to wait for the vaccine. That is why we are trying to find some alternatives to protect our existence," said Al Amin, general manager of the Six Season Hotel in Dhaka.
"Around 15-20 percent of our total business was done at our restaurants before the novel coronavirus pandemic. Now we have started a home delivery service, for food, which may cover five percent of our total restaurant business. We also have iftar arrangements which we are delivering through our own mechanism as well as through the online delivery systems," he added.
He said that the hotel owners are waiting for the authorities to relax the lockdown – which may increase the number of the domestic travelers and have a positive impact on the hotel business.
The Radisson Blu Dhaka has also launched its iftar service.
Sharfuddin Newaz, director (sales and marketing) of the Radisson Blu, said, "We have five iftar packages for both families and individuals. The customers have to give advance orders and must take delivery from the hotel."
He said that only two guests are staying at the hotel now.
Shahid Hamid, executive director of the Dhaka Regency Hotel & Resort, a five-star hotel, said, "We have started our iftar service. Earlier, we sold iftar dinners worth around Tk10-15 lakh per day which may come down to Tk25-30 thousand per day this Ramadan."
"The hospitality sector may suffer over the year, even after the pandemic ends. Although our alternatives are not sufficient to cover losses, we have to try to find solutions," he added.
He also suggested easing the visa system so that travelers can easily come to Bangladesh in the post-pandemic period, which might help them recover some losses.
Meanwhile, the Westin Dhaka hotel is continuing its room business where the occupancy rate is around five percent now.
"Some foreigners have to stay in Bangladesh as they have been unable to leave the country. So, we still have some guests. We are not running any home delivery services," said Jane Alam Shawon, director (revenue strategy), of the Westin Dhaka.
According to the hotel and restaurant cell of the civil aviation and tourism ministry, there are 17 five-star, four four-star and 17 three-star hotels in Bangladesh.
According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Bangladesh Chapter, the estimated losses of turnover from the hotel and resort sector will be Tk1,500 crore, till June this year, and around one lakh people will lose their jobs in the sector.