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    Maharashtra allows hotels to resume operations at 33% capacity from July 8, smaller hotels likely to stay shut

    Synopsis

    The permission has been granted on conditions of these entities adhering to social distancing norms and other protocols.

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    NEW DELHI: The Maharashtra government, through an order on Monday, allowed hotels and other accommodation providers to resume operations with restricted entry and at 33% capacity outside containment areas from July 8, but industry insiders said smaller, boutique hotels in the state are likely to stay shut given the limited number of rooms, new standard operating procedures (SOPs), and costs of doing business. The order allows restaurants in hotels to operate for resident guests with social distancing norms but makes no mention of standalone restaurants and they will stay shut.

    Chains such as Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) and others like Lemon Tree have already been operating some hotels in cities like Mumbai and Pune for accomodation of medical staff and quarantining of asymptomatic travellers.

    Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, VP, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) said he supports the go ahead to operate but he does not understand the 33% capacity limit. "People coming to a hotel are living within the confines of a room.You can't get more socially distant than that. Probably this is phase one and within the next few weeks they would increase the capacity. We also do not understand why restaurants have not been allowed to operate. If people require places to stay they would also require places to eat," he said.

    Dilip Datwani, former president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) said 33% capacity for small hotels makes no sense. “If a hotel has 19-20 keys, and you are asking him to operate 6 rooms, the economics do not work. 50% capacity would have been understandable. But there are staff and electricity costs. The order is not viable for smaller hotels,” he said.

    National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) president Anurag Katriar said if the state, based on the feedback of the domain experts feels it is not safe to dine out now, restaurants will abide by it.

    "MHA had permitted the states to take a call so if they feel it is not safe, it is not safe. What can we do," he added.

    The order issued on July 6, also mentions that hotels and other hospitality units if being used for quarantine facilities will continue to be used so unless decided otherwise by district/municipal administration. “Similarly, some part/whole of the balance unused capacity (67%) can also be used for quarantine facility by district/municipal administration,” the order by Sanjay Kumar, chief secretary, government of Maharashtra states and goes on to add: “These entities will be subject to the provisions of the order dated 29 June 2020, wherein the concerned district collectors or commissioners of the municipal corporations can enforce generic measures and restrictions in specified local areas on the permitted non-essential activities.”

    Dipak Haksar, advisor to industry body CII’s national committee on tourism and hospitality said CII welcomes the Maharashtra government’s decision on reopening of the hotels and hospitality industry with 33% capacity. “We are hopeful that soon the limit of 33% occupancy will also be removed,” he added.

    The SOPs include ensuring proper crowd management in the hotel as well as outside premises like parking lots, contactless processes like digital payments for both check ins and check outs, compulsory use of Aarogya Setu app and leaving rooms unoccupied for at least 24 hours after each client stay following sanitisation.
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