Monday, March 27, 2023

Conversion of Hotels: Abandoning Tourism

It is sad - the recent news in the media that a large number of hotel owners are contemplating converting their properties for use as spaces for some other purposes - other than as hotel accommodations, for which they were originally built.

This is a case of the child forsaking the cradle within the confines of which he/she found comfort and safety during his/her formative years. There is no gain saying the pain the owners must feel - but clutching at every strand of straw within grasp is what is called for - given the painful times we are going through.

But will the financial institutions allow the conversions? After all, it is a complete deviation from the stated purpose for which the financing was extended to the hotel owners. May be YES – I mean, if this is the only way to improve the NPL situation in the country, why not? If they have to depart from convention for the sake of improving recovery, they have no choice but to do it. If the financial institutions have to save themselves from imminent collapse, they have to make a shift from their customary rigid, unrelenting posture.

But it is still sad. It has taken us many decades to arrive here. Government policies have been tweaked to create enabling conditions to upscale capacity. Financial institutions had thrown wide open their coffers to lend money to aspiring hoteliers. The government had blatantly encouraged the hotel sector to upscale and upgrade their properties - with veiled threats that if they did not do so, they would be left in the lurch. In heeding the clarion call of the government, both old and new players in the tourism sector went headlong into expanding capacity and upgrading facilities - in anticipation of a booming tourism business. Tour operators invested millions in acquiring buses and improving competence.

Then, after all that – BOOM!! …. Less said the better.

The greater tragedy in this calamitous reversal of fortune is not so much the monumental losses the people are straddled with; hundreds of dreams shattered, and thousands of jobs lost - in its wake ushering in an era of unprecedented exodus of outflow of human capital. Even worst, we are now at the verge of being thrown many decades back in time - dismantling many decades of painful building of tourism infrastructure; causing disenchantment to thousands of industry professionals who are left without direction or earning.

Tourism still holds boundless promise for Bhutan - it is the mother of all mothers inside whose accommodating belly many other industries foment and nurture. The government needs to act fast - before we enter the phase of no return. We do not have the time or the money to rebuild what we are about to lose, that which was built over many decades.

No comments:

Post a Comment