SME hoteliers call for more support | Sunday Observer

SME hoteliers call for more support

20 October, 2019
Rohan Jayasinghe
Rohan Jayasinghe

Policy makers should encourage local investors and entrepreneurs of the tourism industry and incentivise them especially during tough times to get over hurdles and contribute to the lucrative industry, said East-West Properties PLC Director Rohan Jayasinghe who runs home stay properties in Tangalle and Boossa which are facing some of the worst times due to lack of support from authorities.

He said the occupancy rates which had been over 40 percent at the time he started the business three years ago had fallen to almost zero for the past one year due to political turmoil and the volatile security situation in the country after the Easter Sunday attacks.

“I saw ‘niche’ market for high end travellers which made me to embark on the project in the South which comprises villas for holiday makers away from the hassle and bustle of the city life. But today all hopes have been shared due to the low turn up of visitors making the operations less lucrative,” Jayasinghe said, adding that he is unable to keep nose above water due to the inability to pay off loans and salaries of employees. Small and medium scale hotel operators and boutique hotel owners across the country share the same sentiments that they are unable to sustain operations due to the inability to service loans, lease and payment of salaries to workers due to the poor number of guests compelling them to wind down business.

‘From the time I started the business it has been a disaster starting with torrential rains that inundated the exit point of the high way in Matara, viral flu confined to the South, having two prime ministers in the country last year. All these discouraged clients who had preferred the location. For nearly a year there has been no visitors,’ Jayasinghe said. New and existing small scale hotel operators said it is true that the authorities came up with many relief packages including a moratorium for loan repayment and low interest loans schemes to relieve those affected by the Easter attacks.

However, access to the relief measures is a nightmare as so many bureaucratic procedures are involved in securing the faculties and those who are supposed to carry out the programs are not cooperative and in many instances lack coordination and communication among themselves, Jayasinghe said narrating the ordeal he underwent at the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority in seeking assistance for his properties.

“There are low interest rate loan schemes but we are unable to benefit from them due to the rigmarole and bureaucratic procedures involved in it. All the trouble taken to get the documents such as the deed, letter from the Gramasevaka and no objection letter and handing over to the Sri Lanka Tourism authorities ended up a futile effort with the authorities saying the documents were missing,” Jayasinghe said. Hotel operators said there is no denying that the country has immense potential to be a top tourist destination with all the attractions it has but if the authorities do not recognize and support the stakeholders particularly the small timers who could attract high spenders to the country all what the country has and all good that is said about it is in vain.

“We need to see action and not rhetoric. The money spend on costly advertising and promotions will not mean anything but a mere waste of public funds if there are no clear cut policies, procedures and the willingness of the authorities to develop the industry which could be the number one foreign exchange earner in the near future,” Jayasinghe said.

Human Resource Consultant for Hospitality, Amal Nanayakkara said the country with all the rich blessings is unable to attract the number of travellers as Singapore, Thailand or Vietnam is due to the limited exposure of the country to the world.

“We don’t yet have big global names in whatever business. On top of that the racist attitude especially among religious and political leaders not allowing businesses of minority communities to come up is a curse for the country. It is sad to see some religious leaders instead of guiding the followers to choose honest and patriotic leaders, promoting criminals and broad daylight robbers,” he said.

However, a Sri Lanka Tourism official said all properties that have been registered with the SLTDA will be entitled for the relief measures which will be made available when the information pertaining to properties have been furnished.