Bangalore hotels won’t be rocking this New Year eve

December 15th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Dec 15 (IANS) Every year, India’s silicon valley looks forward to New Year eve partying as hotels organise big bashes and police relax time restrictions for liquor outlets.But the hospitality sector here is set to usher in 2009 on a quiet and sober note this time. Weighing heavily on its mind are the Mumbai terror tragedy, global recession and security concerns.

“This time we have decided to keep New Year eve celebration a mild affair. The deadly terror attacks in Mumbai and global economic meltdown have forced us to stay away from arranging a big bash,” Saron King, executive secretary of Le Meridien Hotel, told IANS.

“Last year we had a grand party and spent around Rs.800,000 in planning and marketing New Year celebrations,” she added.

Echoing King, an official of the Lalit Ashok hotel said they were in no mood to celebrate because of problems dogging the hospitality industry, right from security concerns to the global financial crisis.

“We will be holding a small party, unlike previous years, when food, music and drinks used to flow throughout the night on New Year eve,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Bangalore Police have been strictly enforcing an 11.30 p.m. deadline for closure of all pubs and bars from early this year. There are thousands of liquor outlets in the city, many of which also illegally function as bars.

Mid-year live music and dance was also barred in all places serving liquor.

On New Year, these restrictions were expected to be relaxed. But no decision has been taken yet.

“We have not yet taken a decision. There is still time for it, though the thinking in the department is against relaxation of the closing time,” a senior police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Bangalore’s hospitality sector has begun to feel the impact of the global meltdown and the Nov 26 Mumbai terror attacks in which over 170 people were killed, say industry sources. The terrorists had targeted two of the poshest hotels in that city.

Most luxury hotels in the city have been going through a bad time in the last couple of months, as the occupancy rate has dwindled by almost 40 percent.

“The flow of foreign tourists has come down almost 50 percent, after the Mumbai terror attacks. Moreover, because of economic slowdown most of our clients, mostly from offshore, have stayed away from luxury hotels,” said an official of The Park Hotel.

“The hotel industry in Bangalore is in doldrums. We are looking for bailout and avoiding spending time and money on events like New Year eve celebrations,” the official added.

New Year eve parties in luxury hotels cost anything between Rs.10,000 and Rs.12,000 per couple. But many are thinking of halving the cost to attract people this time.

Representatives of Bangalore’s hospitality sector, along with the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI), recently met Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa and sought an immediate bailout package.

“In 10 days after the Mumbai attacks, hotel occupancy has dropped drastically even after slashing room rates by 50 percent,” the representatives told the chief minister.

“We have requested the state government that the luxury tax on rooms be charged on the actual rates and not on the (higher) printed rack rates,” a representative told the media after the meeting.

While occupancy is going down, costs in terms of strengthening security following the Mumbai attacks is increasing, the representatives said.

“We are happy that the city police have decided to arm the hotels of the city to face the terror threat using sophisticated weapons. We have increased our security vigil,” said King, declining to divulge further.

An official of Taj Gateway on Residency Road in the central business district said: “We have beefed our security system and keeping 24 hours vigil. It won’t be appropriate to divulge details.”

Most five-star hotels in the city have increased the number of security guards on their premises besides installing closed circuit television and metal detectors.

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