Hotels and eateries face a tough summer

Low room occupancy and rising commodity prices have hit Tiruchi’s hospitality sector

Published - May 18, 2022 06:54 pm IST - TIRUCHI

As the city settles into summer, Tiruchi’s hospitality sector is facing a tough time balancing rising operational costs with changing market requirements in a post-lockdown scenario.

The meeting and wedding venues may be filling up, but hotel occupancy rates remain low, say industry players. Despite being well-connected by air, road and rail, the city’s outlook remains low in profile when compared to other Tier II cities like Madurai.

The sharp downturn in travel and tourism caused by the pandemic had led to fundamental shifts in the industry, said Prabhu Venkatramani, secretary, Tiruchi Tourism Federation.

“Due to the widespread job cuts in the hospitality sector during lockdown, many experienced professionals have shifted to other fields. Though there are job openings at all levels now, we are facing a severe shortage of labour,” Mr. Venkatramani told the Hindu.

A more concerted effort would be needed to broaden the focus from the region’s religious tourism to draw a diverse group of visitors, he added. “We need to promote attractions such as the Butterfly Park, with timings that take advantage of the weather conditions. Besides this, we should also look at publicising existing events such as the Chithirai temple car festival in Srirangam more vigorously,” said Mr. Venkatramani.

Besides government assistance, a change in public perception is important too.

“Ever since the pandemic, our room bookings have come down below 50%. People are still not comfortable staying in rooms for social functions due to health concerns; they prefer to attend the event and leave immediately,” said T. Sundara Ramanujam, manager, Ajantha Hotel.

Cloud kitchens and app-based food delivery options have started giving tough competition to physical restaurants.

“Our business was picking up as the public transport services resumed earlier this year. But the inflated cost of cooking gas and fuel has made vegetables prohibitively expensive. Restaurants are spending at least 12% more of their budget on purchase cost than a few months ago. The entire sector is heading towards heavy losses,” said S. Sundaresan, secretary, Tiruchirappali Hotel Owners Association.

The industry body, which has 160 restaurants as members, is also looking to revive business after recent spot checks by Food Safety and Drugs Administration officials on shawarma stalls and bakeries in the city.

“We have requested the department to train restaurant professionals in Tiruchi about the regulatory norms and hygiene protocols that are essential for the sector. There should be greater monitoring of how food is being prepared and who is handling it,” said Mr. Sundaresan.

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