Hotels that have been accommodating Covid-19 front-liners have Tk20 crore owed to them from the government in the form of payment for food and accommodation bills.
Hotels hit hard by Covid-19
- Approx 1,200 hotels employ 5 lakh people
- 60% employees may lose jobs
- Hotel occupancy rate 2-3%
- Sector already counted Tk2,500cr loss which may exceed Tk7,000cr year end
--- Source: Bangladesh International Hotel Association
While the entire hospitality sector is one of the worst sufferers amid the pandemic, at least 35 hotels are trying to survive by hosting health professionals dealing with Covid-19 patients.
Around 3,000 rooms of these hotels are occupied by the Covid-19 front-liners, filling only 30-35 percent of their business on average, according to hoteliers.
However, their survival attempt has turned out to be a reason for suffering even more as they have Tk20 crore owed to them from the government in the form of payment for food and accommodation bills against these health professionals, according to the Bangladesh International Hotel Association (BIHA).
"While hoteliers are struggling to sustain business, the dues have left us in more disarray because we have a huge maintenance cost," said Khaled-Ur-Rahaman Sany, co-chairman of the BIHA disaster management committee.
He said that the lion's share of the unpaid bills is from the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital. The hospital's Director Brigadier General AKM Nasir Uddin refused to make any comment over the phone on the issue.
Khaled-Ur-Rahaman Sany, also the managing director of Golden Tulip The Grandmark Dhaka hotel, added, "We have been keeping health professionals in different star-rated hotels since April at very low cost as per the request of the Directorate General of Health Services. The accommodation cost of a room is around Tk500-5,000 per night."
The normal accommodation cost in a five-star hotel is around Tk17,000, which is Tk12,000 in a four-star hotel. Besides, the standard meal charge is around Tk3,500-5,000.
Dhaka Regency Hotel and Resort is one of the hotels where doctors are staying now.
"Around 215 doctors are staying in our hotel from May this year. Their accommodation and food cost is Tk6,500 per day without VAT," said Shahid Hamid, executive director of Dhaka Regency Hotel and Resort.
"By keeping these doctors as part of our corporate social responsibility, we are doing 40 percent business compared to that in normal times. Yet, we have not got the bills," he added.
Around 55 doctors of Kurmitola General Hospital stayed in Hotel Six Seasons from May 22 to July 1 this year.
Md Al Amin, general manager of the hotel, said they hosted them with a 50-percent discount. "However, after decreasing the rate, we soon realised that we could not afford it, and therefore discontinued the service."
"We have arrears worth Tk1 crore which is still unpaid. The hospital said they are trying to get the money from the health ministry to pay us," he added.
He also mentioned that around 3,000 health professionals are staying in different hotels in the country at present.
The government accommodated physicians and nurses, who are treating Covid-19 patients in different hospitals in the country, in different hotels so that they do not bring coronavirus with them and infect their family members.
The hotels that are keeping healthcare professionals are Dhaka Regency, Golden Tulip The Grandmark, Hansa, Lakeshore, Swiss Garden, Grand Oriental, Orchard Suites, Green Guise, Innotel Banani, Ascot hotel, Grace 21, Maple Leaf, Bengal Canary Park, Bengal Inn, Western Park Inn, Milina, Grand Prince, FARS, Hotel 71, City Homes, Blue Bird, Hotel Asia, Royal Palace, Circle Inn, Hotel Chittagong, Melody, Delux, Star City, Grand Prince and others.
"We have taken a risk to earn the maintenance cost by hosting the health professionals. However, the unpaid bills have caused us additional pressure as we have little income now," said a top employee of a hotel, wishing anonymity.
The unanticipated pandemic has already caused a severe loss of about Tk2,500 crore in the hospitality sector, according to BIHA.
If this crisis continues, the losses will exceed Tk7,000 crore by the end of this year.
The number of boarders in most of the hotels has come down to 2-3 percent, which is the lowest in the sector's recorded history.
Hoteliers' plea for govt aid
Although hospitality is one of the worst affected sectors during the Covid-19 crisis, the hoteliers have not got any government support as yet.
They made a plea for financial aid at a press conference in Renaissance Dhaka Gulshan Hotel on Wednesday, organised by BIHA.
"We have got nothing yet despite the declaration [of the stimulus package] by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina," said Hakim Ali, president of BIHA.
The BIHA raised 6 demands that include waiver of interest on existing loans from March to December 2020 and revival of current instalments from June 2021 as well as fixing all interest before the start of the instalment; keeping a grace period for the repaying of loans under the stimulus package; exemption of all utility bills, holding tax and tax deduction from the salaries of employees; and a special allocation of Tk500 crore for employee salaries.