Hotels sweat over 31st night rules

Hoteliers have expressed their concerns over the enormous loss in revenue following the restrictions placed on public gatherings due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, particularly with regard to the 31st night parties this month, The Sunday Morning Business learns.


Speaking to us on the matter, The Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) President Sanath Ukwatte stated that their members will be at a huge disadvantage this year, as one of the industry’s biggest annual events, the 31st night party, has been exposed to the restrictions of the public health authorities. He explained that while as of 16 December the local health authorities have not outright banned the parties, local hoteliers will have to abide by the “50 persons per hall” rule that is currently being implemented.


“The ‘end of the year’ party is a huge event in our hotel calendars, one during which most hoteliers make their highest food and beverage (F&B) revenue for the year. The hotels within Colombo usually rack up a F&B revenue of around Rs. 10 million to Rs. 15 million during those few hours. Therefore, we expect the restrictions placed on the festivities due to this pandemic to have an impact on our revenue.”


He stated that since this has been a disastrous year for the industry, THASL is currently lobbying with the Sri Lankan Government to lessen the restrictions for just that day, which will allow halls to fill at least 50% of their recommended occupancy. However, if the Government was to keep the current 50 persons per hall rule or ban end of the year parties, he stated that the industry will adhere to the respective regulations.


Similar to Ukwatte, Jetwing Hotels Chairperson Shiromal Cooray agreed that the restrictions on the end of the year parties will bear a huge impact on local hoteliers. However, she explained that the local industry has to go by what the Ministry of Health and other healthcare professionals are saying in order to get the present situation under control as soon as possible.


“This is the only way our industry is going to start to recover; unfortunately, it comes at the cost of the ‘end of the year’ parties. Most hotels are not even hosting their annual party this year, but we are and we have estimated a 50-60% decrease to revenue from last year.”


She stated that the group’s Colomo property will be open to a limited number of their regular members, while Jetwing resorts will have small activities such as personal dinners. She also went on to state that deliveries have become a huge part of the hotels’ day-to-day activities and therefore, the group predicts an uptick in deliveries during that period as people have adapted to celebrating from home. Despite these activities, Jetwing Hotels is set to follow all the necessary health guidelines and expect their customers also to abide by these regulations.


Another prominent end of the year party destination in Colombo stated that they are still amidst discussions on whether to host the party at all. An official from the hotel stated that this will be the first time in the last 10 years, since the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, they might not have their annual party.


“We know we can make a lot of money by having a party. People usually pay up to Rs. 11,000 to enter our parties. However, we need to look at the bigger picture, so we are ready to follow any and all regulations of the local health authorities and because this is a public safety issue, we might not host it this year at all.”


With the spread of Covid-19 in the country, Deputy Director General of Health Services – Medical Services Dr. P.W.C.L. Panapitiya published a series of guidelines to be followed by the public during the Christmas/festive season.


Issuing a statement on 10 December, Dr. Panapitiya stated that he looks forward to the maximum contribution of the institutional level and the public to prevent the spread of Covid-19 during this Christmas and festive season, when there is a high risk of the spread of the virus in the country.


He listed out 10 regulations both the public and institutions should follow, where it asked everyone to avoid organising party gatherings as usual during this festive season, while restricting to only celebrating among the people living in the respective households. It also asked at-risk locals with non-communicable diseases/chronic diseases and older people to avoid crowds altogether.


Ukwatte, who is also the Chairman and Managing Director of Mount Lavinia Hotel, which hosts one of Colombo’s biggest end of the year parties and attracts thousands of people each year, stated that the hotel will skip the annual party as it has been registered as a quarantine hotel.