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Lay-off warning as clamp 'hurts' hotels

Manama, April 19, 2009

Hotels have warned that hundreds of staff could be laid off as a result of a new tourism clampdown by the Bahrain government.

Our sister newspaper Gulf Daily News reported on Friday that one and two-star hotels were now banned from serving alcohol.

The Culture and Information Ministry has also banned them from recruiting musicians from abroad and ordered them to halt all live entertainment.

Sources said 39 hotels had been notified of the new rules on Thursday - just a day before they were implemented.

However, some hoteliers yesterday claimed business would be hit hard and warned that many of their staff now faced the sack.

They also expressed concern that the decision was taken just a week before the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, meaning they could miss out on lucrative business generated by the race.

Al Yamama Plaza Hotel accountant Deny Thomas said two ministry employees walked into the hotel on Thursday to break the news.

'All our customers left Friday morning after they heard about the ban because they wanted alcohol and now we only have a few customers left,' he told the newspaper yesterday.

'We now have around 100 employees who are currently not working and our three outlets are closed.'

Thomas said staff had now been sent on emergency leave and the management was taking steps to upgrade the hotel's facilities to three-star, in the hope of again qualifying for an alcohol and entertainment licence.

However, Bab Al Bahrain Hotel outlet manager Louis D'souza said the hotel's business had disappeared overnight.

He said the management was now struggling to come up with a plan to 'save' the hotel.

'Most of our staff are out of jobs because our outlets are closed and we do not know what to do,' he said.

'We are in a very difficult situation and currently we are thinking of what to do to save our hotel.'

D'souza criticised the lack of notice given to hotels, which he warned could face problems paying staff and honouring debts.

'The government should have given us some time at least,' he said.

'We have to pay staff, our suppliers and debts. How are we supposed to do that?

'We have been put in a very difficult situation.

'I do not know what to say. I'm thinking of my future - all the dreams I had for the hotel are in vain.'

Bahrain Carlton Hotel human resources co-ordinator Maria Clara Al Cantara revealed that she only heard about the new rules yesterday - a day after they were supposed to come into effect.

'It is too alarming,' she said. 'This ban is a big issue because it will affect all the staff.'

She feared the new alcohol and entertainment restrictions would put people off visiting the hotel, saying it depended on revenues generated by its nightspots.

'I will be saddened if it continues to be implemented and it will be a blow for all one and two-star hotels,' she said.

Al Cantara also predicted a massive decrease in the number of room guests, since there will be no entertainment on offer for them.

'The tourism sector will be affected because, obviously, these customers are coming from other GCC countries and if there is no entertainment or alcohol they will not come,' she said.

'They will rather buy their own drinks and water for 100 fils and stay in a furnished apartment.'

Aradous Hotel general manager Sami Hassan reiterated that the knock-on effect could be major, since it could mean hotels defaulting on loan repayments or other deals.

'The issue is not that we are closing our outlets and banning alcohol - it's about our staff,' he said.

'We have Bahraini employees and expat employees, most of whom support families.

'They will have to be laid off now


Tags: Bahrain | hotels | alcohol ban |

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