Hard hit by the Easter Sunday bombings, hotels in Sri Lanka, some of whom are recording occupancies as low as three per cent, are hoping for financial relief to tide them through waves of cancellation.
On Monday, members of the tourism industry met president Maithripala Sirisena and prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at an emergency meeting.
“We made two requests; one is for financial relief and secondly for a more coherent strategy on public relations and profiling Sri Lanka abroad,” said Sanath Ukwatte, president of The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL).
The requests were for a two-year moratorium on the interest and capital repayments of loans taken by hotels and also for soft loans to pay wages and other benefits to hotel staff. Ukwatte said a Cabinet sub committee will be appointed to swiftly examine the proposals.
Ukwatte added that the industry is working on discounted packages for airfares and hotel stays, similar to what many countries hit by terror attacks have done.
Several big international hotel brands like the Grand Hyatt, Sheraton, ITC India, InterContinental and more Hilton-branded hotels were previously announced to open in the country in the next 12 to 24 months, but the hotel industry has taken a big hit following the Easter Sunday bombings.
Hoteliers said that occupancies in some hotels in Colombo, where the affected Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury hotels are located, reported occupancies as low as three per cent.
“There have been 80 per cent cancellations in the next three months and hotels are struggling to pay salaries and other benefits to staff,” said a worried Ukwatte, who is also chairman of the iconic, colonial-era Mount Lavinia Hotel.
Despite the gloom, at least one Asian hotel brand has reiterated plans to open its Sri Lanka property in late 2019.
“The 164-room Next Hotel Colombo is slated to open in November 2019 and is located within the (new) Colombo City Centre (mall) in Colombo,” the Singapore-based Next Hotels & Resorts told TTG Asia.
“We are still working towards the scheduled opening date and will continue to monitor the situation.”
Next Hotels & Resorts is part of the Next Story Group, formerly known as SilverNeedle Hospitality.
Meanwhile a 60-strong Sri Lankan delegation led by state-owned Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman Kishu Gomes is currently attending the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, which started on Sunday. Sri Lankan officials were also due to address the media during the four-day event.