Bahrain: Weekend protests 'hitting tourism'
Protests are driving customers away from Bahrain's hotels - especially when they happen on weekends, according to four-star hotel officials who met yesterday. They were discussing the plight facing the tourism industry and complained that repeated demonstrations were bad for business. Officials said demonstrations by both pro- and anti-government groups were disrupting what little business they had left.
Hotels on Exhibition Avenue said they had no customers on Friday and Saturday due to pro-government demonstrations nearby. "Hotels in Manama are the worst hit, but we have had situations when hotels even in Juffair and Exhibition Avenue have had no customers when there have been demonstrations near the Al Fateh Mosque," said Bahrain Four Star Hotel Owners Association chairman Abdulhameed Al Halwachi. "We are suffering from all sides and we have to think of ways to get over this."
Mr. Al Halwachi said one way to help hotels emerge from the financial crisis they were facing was to temporarily scrap a five percent government levy. "The levy was temporarily suspended between July and September last year when we stopped charging it from customers, but has since been re-introduced," he told the GDN after the association's meeting at Ramee International Hotel, Juffair.
"We then had to pay the levy to the government anyway since the step had been taken to attract customers." He said hotel officials wanted the levy to be suspended until June. "This will help us to a great extent in recovering some of the losses we have incurred in the last one year," he added. "The amount can be huge since we now pay five percent of what we make to the government."
Mr. Al Halwachai earlier said four-star hotels had lost nearly BD30 million over the past year as a direct result of unrest. He said 27 hotels were significantly affected by the unrest as room bookings plummeted by at least 50 percent. Meanwhile, during the meeting the association also requested the Health Ministry to allow each hotel to have at least two smoking outlets.
A ministry representative will forward the proposal to a high committee for consideration. "We now have permission to have only one and we feel we can have some advantage if there was another one," said Mr Al Halwachi. He also revealed plans to turn 50 percent of the outlets in any establishment into smoking areas. "We have to agree on this internally before we submit the proposal to the ministry."
The association also appealed to authorities to introduce strict regulations for furnished apartments. "At the moment, most such places are unlicensed and offer rooms and suites on a daily basis when in fact they are not allowed to do so. This is a problem for the licensed operators who have to face cut-throat competition."