Disquiet in Hyderabad
The ongoing political unrest in Andhra Pradesh has dampened the spirits of hoteliers in Hyderabad who were expecting business to pick up from January, says Syed Ameen Kader.
At the time of going to press, the Telangana issue continues to drag on and hoteliers in Andhra Pradesh, especially in Hyderabad, are feeling the heat. Business had already gone down by about 30% in the month of December with no sign of improvement even in January, because big conferences and events either got cancelled or postponed.
The agitation (on the Telangana issue) started in the middle of December and it affected almost all hotels quite severely. The impact is still there; none of us see any improvement in the situation till a solution is reached,” said Ram Misra, president, Hotels and Restaurants Association of Andhra Pradesh (HRAAP).
Misra, who is also the general manager (Andhra Pradesh) for the Fortune Group of Hotels, said that hoteliers were banking on some big conferences and events to revive their businesses in January, but the MICE segment has also been affected to a large extent.
“We keep hearing from hotels who have large convention facilities that confirmed bookings have been cancelled and moved instead to Bengaluru and Chennai. For the first time in Hyderabad, a big pharmaceutical conference where we were expecting about seven-to-eight thousand doctors to attend, had about 50% or less attendance. All the hotels were expecting to get good bookings during the conference,” he added.
Simon Jinks, general manager of Novotel Hyderabad Airport, also says the continuing political uncertainty and agitations across the state has cast its shadow on the hospitality sector. “The issue threatens to dent Hyderabad’s image as a favoured destination for meetings, resulting in the hospitality and travel sectors increasingly feeling the impact with each passing day. Hotel revenues are definitely affected considering Hyderabad is a major IT hub and a destination for large scale events of national and international importance, as there is apprehension amongst travellers to visit the city in a disturbed environment,” Jinks added.
The biggest frustration for hoteliers in Andhra Pradesh is the uncertainty surrounding the issue; they have no clue when this is going to be resolved. They feel the bandhs (strikes) and agitations which are happening quite often in the state, will play on the minds of corporates who want to come and do business in this part of the country.
“It certainly has dampened the sentiment and there is some amount of sluggishness on account of this issue. I hope this gets resolved soon enough because this is something like an open wound. The longer it continues the worse is the business sentiment,” said George Verghese, general manager, ITC Kakatiya.
However, barring some pockets of Hyderabad, people there say ground conditions are more or less normal, and it’s not as bad as the media makes it appear to be. Business has certainly been affected, but they feel things are going to improve from now on.
“I look at it as a temporary blitz and we are confident it is going to correct in days to come. Yes, there has been impact, business has been lost, and some conferences have moved out of the city, but at the same time life goes on, there are conferences happening right now even. I think the worst is behind us now,” said Sunil Prabhakar, director sales and marketing, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace.
Misra accepts that they hardly have any role to play in the decision making of the state divide. “We have communicated the impact of the situation to the government and, like everybody else, we are pleading that there should a resolve on this issue,” he added.
Jinks said the situation should come to normalcy soon for the benefit of ‘brand’ Hyderabad. The majority of hoteliers in Hyderabad we spoke to are not worried about the formation of a new state. They feel geographical demarcation is not going to make much difference to their business if the new state is formed, but they want an early solution to this long standing issue. Until then they are looking at retaining whatever business they have.
Industry analysts say they have not come across any incident where hospitality projects have moved out of the city due to the current scenario. Hyderabad remains one of the sought-after destinations for launching new hotels. However, the formation of a new state and a new government is going to take time, which is likely to affect the schedule of future projects.