HOTELS are hopeful that the return of conferences, workshops and funerals, among other social gatherings, will mark their journey to revival after an earlier ban on such gatherings bruised their businesses and led to multiple staff layoffs.
The President of the Ghana Hotels Association (GHA), Dr Edward Ackah-Nyamike Jr, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on June 1 that such gatherings were a major contributor to hotels’ revenues, accounting for a minimum of one-third of their annual turnover.
Therefore, Dr Ackah-Nyamike Jr said the easing of the restrictions on social gatherings could open up a major revenue stream necessary for the survival of the hotels and also lead to a recall of some staff who were initially facing redundancy over the little to no activity in their employer facilities.
Speaking to the Graphic Business on the impact of the phased removal of the imposition of restrictions on hotels, the President of the GHA said the association was “pleasantly surprised” by the decision to allow conferences and other gatherings to take place but with a maximum of 100 people per event.
Beyond it coming as a surprise to the association, he said the gesture was “quite significant” to the industry’s fortunes.
He explained that the return of conferences and workshops would benefit about 25 per cent of hotels in the country, which comprises upend hotels that had facilities for gatherings.
He said the expansion in the number of people who could gather for funeral services would also benefit hotels in the regions.
“A lot of hotels in the regions survive on funerals and so the return of funeral gatherings is quite significant to their fortunes,” he said.
Dr Ackah-Nyamike Jr, however, said the impact of the easing of the restrictions on the hotel business could take time to reflect on the fortunes of the industry as the benefits from conferences, workshops and other gatherings were incapable of muting the losses they had suffered.
“Remember that accommodation is still the major revenue generator and hotels are currently saddled with overheads and other debts.
“So, they will need time to put the pieces together first.
“It will also depend on the demand from patrons,” he said but noted that “whatever the case, half a loaf is better than none.”
While welcoming the move, the President of the GTA, which boasts a membership of about 1,200 hotels, said the easing of the restrictions also represented a test case for hotels.
“Now, it is for us to work in a way that will show that we can manage the situation,” he said, noting that hotels and their management would now have another opportunity to prove themselves as good corporate citizens in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to ensure that we stick to a maximum of 100 people per event, ensure strict hand washing protocols and use the thermometer guns.
“If we do these things and ensure that no hotel becomes ground for the spread of the virus, I am sure that we may get more relaxations,” Dr Ackah-Nyamike Jr, who manages the Venaco Lodge at North Kaneshie in Accra, said.
The hotel business is the nexus to the country’s burgeoning tourism industry, with data from the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) showing that about 4,000 of them currently operate nationwide.
As place of convergence for people, the hotel business and the hospitality sector in general has been identified as one aspect of the economy that will suffer brutally from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Ackah-Nyamike Jr said conservative estimates showed that the disease had more than halved the sector’s revenues and led to a minimum of 48,000 permanent staff being sent home.
The losses and the layoffs, he said were occasioned by the cancellation of conferences, workshops and other gatherings, the closure of the borders and the general limitations that the pandemic imposed on life and social activities.
Mr Herbert Acquaye, who manages the Cleaver House in Accra and other hospitality facilities, said in a separate interview that COVID-19’s impact on his business had been “devastating.”
He said the three facilities under his care had been shut down since mid-March and about 90 staff sent home.
Mr Acquaye, who is a former President of the GHA, said while the easing of restrictions was positive, the impact would not be immediate as hotels would need time to adapt to the ‘new normal’ in working.
“We will start to see the impact in two to three months’ time,” he said, explaining that hotels would also have to prepare to replace and retrain their staff on the COVID-19 protocols at an extra cost.