Bhubaneswar: Dilip Ray, founder of the Mayfair Group of Hotels talked about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and improvement in the situation and also revealed that they are soon opening the country’s first boutique tea resort in Siliguri.
Here is an excerpt from the conversation:
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected the hotel industry?
The year 2020 has been the worst year that the world has ever seen. It had majorly affected the hotel and aviation industries the most. While the aviation industry is slowly recovering now, the hotel industry is still struggling.
What were the changes in situations after the unlock?
The unlock began in June. But customers walked into hotels only from October. Earlier, the occupancy rate at our hotels was around 75-80 percent. But, this year, after including the New Year eve, Christmas and even marriage ceremonies, our occupancy rate dropped to 35-40%.
How much loss has the hotel business bore this year?
It’s hard to say the exact figures but a loss of around Rs 1 lakh crore is being assumed. Our Mayfair hotel has alone suffered a loss of over Rs 100 crore. Odisha has around 1600 registered and over 1000 unregistered hotels. I am guessing the Odisha business industry has suffered Rs 2500 crore loss.
What kind of assistance is the hotel industry expecting from the Government for recovery?
We were looking forward to a reorganization of the loan structure which the Government has considered. But we are yet to receive the benefits we needed. A relaxation in interest rates and Provident fund and ESI reimbursement facilities would also help. Relaxation in bar license and holding tickets will also be appreciated for the time being.
Don’t you think that the state’s hotel industry needs to take a lot of steps?
After Corona, people no longer want to go abroad. The Odisha government is promoting tourism very well. Advertising is being done through various channels, starting with international magazines, which no other state is doing. That’s great. But tourism in Odisha means Bhubaneswar, Puri, Konark and that’s where it ends. We need to develop new tourist destinations.
How will the eco-retreat help the state’s hotel industry?
Eco-retreat will have a great impact. Those who come for eco-retreats are staying at the hotel and going there. Returning from there, they go to hotels to stay. This will definitely have a positive effect.
What do you think about the influx of tourists?
At this point, the hotel rooms are supposed to be completely filled with guests. That means 100% occupancy. But we are at 35-40%. We are selling at a discount of 40% less than the print rate we have.
What are the plans for the expansion?
We had started the Raipur project before the Covid-19 pandemic. We have already made the country’s first tea resort in Siliguri. It is scheduled to open in April. This is the first property resort in the country where guests can enjoy tea gardens from every room. Work is also underway on the Kolkata project. We plan to open it in 2022.
What are the plans for new hotels in Odisha?
We have four acres of land in Satasankha, Puri. The government is in talks with us to establish a beach convention. These are the two plans for Odisha. We will set up a Wellness Resort at Satasankha. Work will begin if permission is granted to build the house. This will be Odisha’s first wellness resort. The Wellness industry is quite popular in Kerala. It will be built in that framework.
How much will the new project cost?
About Rs 450-500 crore has been invested in Raipur and Siliguri. The Kolkata project will cost about Rs 500 crore.
Are there plans to acquire other hotels?
No. There are no such plans now. There are no plans to open hotels abroad either.
Do you have plans to enter the stock market?
We have tried to bring in an Initial Public Offer (IPO) once before. The return on investment in the hotel industry is not the same. As a result, private equity (PE) prices are falling. That’s why we canceled our plan in half. There are currently no plans to bring in an IPO.
What do you think of the Brands of Odisha Pride of India campaign?
I would like to thank Sambad Group for coming up with such an event. Many organizations have emerged from Odisha that have been accepted by people across the country. I want to thank them for the efforts of encouragement.
Have you tried to incorporate the culture and traditions of Odisha in your hotel?
We do not have a hotel that does not have a photo of Mahaprabhu Jagannath in the reception room. Our hotel is called Little Odisha. Our hotels are run by Odias.