Banning a cornerstone for tourism? Bahrain's three-star hotels hit by alcohol, prostitution crackdown
The government's allegations of 'immoral activities' in some hotels are believed to be a reference to prostitution.
Three-star hotels in Bahrain are already feeling the impact of the alcohol and live entertainment ban imposed by the Culture Ministry two weeks ago.
In the past, Eid has meant an increase in customer numbers for the hotels in Bahrain classified as three-star - with advance bookings often hitting 50 per cent or more, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
However, after speaking to several hoteliers the GDN has learnt that the Culture Ministry's ban, imposed amid allegations of 'immoral activities' in some hotels, has been bad for business.
The Aradous and Adhari hotels, both part of the Caravan Group, are just two of dozens of hotels that have been hit by the ban.
"Almost none of the rooms have been booked," said Caravan Group of Hotels chairman Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa.
"Usually at this time (the week before Eid) we have between 40 and 50 per cent of our rooms booked and the rest get filled up by walk-in customers - but I don't think that will be the case this year."
He explained that the Caravan Group is looking to upgrade their hotels to meet the four-star standard, but it was not possible to complete this in time for the holidays.
Other hoteliers told the GDN that the government should be held accountable for all the contracts that they had signed with entertainers due to perform this Eid.
"When the Culture Ministry imposed the ban on entertainment venues it was understood by all of us in the industry that investors had been affected," said a spokesman for a major chain of three and four-star hotels, who did not want to be named.
"Although certain properties can be upgraded, some just don't have the space and it is really going to affect them.
"The Culture Ministry should have given us some time or at least some notice, because it will definitely affect the workforce now.
"Usually contracts are signed and settled for Eid at least two months in advance - and now we have contracts with musicians and bands that we cannot honour without taking a loss.
"A lot of money will be lost and who are we going to get compensation from?"
The Casablanca Hotel in Manama has also experienced a dramatic drop in reservations this year, which staff there attributed to the ban.
"We currently have between 15 and 20 per cent bookings for Eid, which is not good," said a hotel sales representative.
"Usually around this time the hotel is fully booked.
"Most of our guests want to enjoy themselves and have beverages and now almost none of them are booking.
"We can't even entertain our guests with music and bands which are usually very popular during Eid.
"The landlord does want to get a four-star rating and has applied to the Culture Ministry but it doesn't seem likely that it will come through before Eid."
Other hotels that operate under different business models like the Tropicana Hotel in Manama are not overly concerned about the ban's impact this Eid.
"The ban on bands and alcohol has not affected us too much,Ó said hotel food and beverage manager Mohammad Saleem.
"Our rooms are more of a villa style that attract families and we don't have bands, so that is not a problem - but we would like to be able to offer our corporate clients alcohol as they come with certain expectations.
"But we are doing fine this Eid, and already have between 75 and 80 per cent of our rooms booked - the only thing that has really changed is that we have put a halt on all orders of alcoholic drinks."
The GDN previously reported on the fears of senior community leader and former Manama municipal councillor Mohammed Al Hawaj that the government's initiative to crack down on vice in three-star hotels could simply result in prostitutes being driven into higher-end establishments.
The government's allegations of 'immoral activities' in some hotels are believed to be a reference to prostitution, substandard facilities and owners ignoring licensing regulations by operating properties as entertainment venues rather than hotels.