|By Mandeep Singh, Gulf Daily News,
Manama, BahrainMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 04, 2011--BAHRAIN's three and four-star hoteliers yesterday demanded "extraordinary action" from the government to overcome a difficult situation due to the unrest.
They say occupancy was almost down to zero, some restaurants have closed down and 70 per cent of staff had been sent home on forced leave.
As a result, say hoteliers, several other related professions have been affected such as taxi drivers, tourist guides and operators, with many on the verge of closing down.
They hope the government would remove Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) fees, Specific Council Training charges and health care fees for all employees among other types of support until the situation improves.
Other fees include a five per cent government levy charged by Tourism Affairs, LMRA fee for expatriates, specific council fees for non-Bahrainis and primary health care fees for Bahrainis and non-Bahrainis.
This is in addition to General Organisation for Social Insurance, municipalities and Tourism Affairs certificate fees.
Hoteliers' representative Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa said they would meet Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) tourism committee head Nabeel Kanoo on Wednesday.
The objective is to highlight the problems the industry has been facing and continues to suffer from, he said.
"The situation in the country has been improving over the last few days, but the hotel and hospitality industry has not yet recovered," Shaikh Mohammed said after holding separate meetings with three and four-star hotels' representatives.
The meetings took place at the Delmon International Hotel, Manama, and Al Safir Hotel, Juffair.
"These are extraordinary times and need extraordinary action," said Shaikh Mohammed.
"The government has to, no doubt, look at improving the security situation but it also has to look into our plight."
He said the hospitality industry was the worst affected.
"We have almost zero occupancy, our restaurants have closed down and 70 per cent of our staff have been sent on forced leave," said Shaikh Mohammed.
"As a result, several other related businesses like taxi drivers, tourist guides and operators have suffered and many are on the verge of closing down."
Shaikh Mohammed, who is also Caravan Group of Hotels managing director, said the flow of tourists had also been severely affected due to the restrictions on the King Fahad Causeway.
"There is no free access and so no customers for us. A very large percentage of our clients come from across the causeway and they are just not able to come," he said.
"While it is true they are scared because of the prevailing situation, if the causeway was open, some may come."
Visitors from Saudi Arabia are only reportedly being allowed into Bahrain if they have a Bahrain CPR card and have a valid reason to be in the country.
He said another concern was the continuing curfew in certain places.
"Our business is to entertain guests till late in the night and till the early hours of the morning on weekends," said Shaikh Mohammed.
"Now, no one comes since they have to get out early and leave."
He said in many of the hotels, only the front office and the coffee shops were working.
"All other restaurants and outlets are shut at the moment because we have zero occupancy," said Shaikh Mohammed.
Among other demands is for the government to reduce Bahrainisation percentage from 15 per cent to 10pc.
"We have noticed Bahrainis show no interest in working in coffee shops and restaurants in three-star hotels," said Shaikh Mohammed.
He said the government should also take steps to bring more cultural and other events to Bahrain and ensure hotels have e-visa facilities to encourage more visitors.
"We also want the government to organise GCC road shows and familiarisation trips for tourism operators so they can see Bahrain is a safe place," said Shaikh Mohammed.
He said new dates for all events that were postponed in the last six weeks should also be immediately announced and plans made well in advance for summer events and attractions.
All these steps have to be implemented as soon as possible to get the tourism sector back on track, said Shaikh Mohammed.
"We are already in dire straits and we need urgent help from the authorities to get ourselves back in business," he said.
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Copyright (c) 2011, Gulf Daily News, Manama, Bahrain
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