Alcohol ban 'won't hit occupancy rates'
Manama, April 23, 2009
Bahrain's one and two-star hotels say they still have guests, despite the new ban on alcohol sales and live music.
The ban came into force last Friday, just a week before the Gulf Air Bahrain Formula One race.
Thirty-nine hotels have been hit by the ban, said sources.
They said hoteliers were notified last Thursday, just a day before they were implemented.
Hoteliers have appealed to the government for a year's grace, to allow them to upgrade their hotels to three-star, to escape the ban.
'We are still waiting for a reply from the government regarding our demands,' said Bahrain Society of Hotels and Restaurants president Ahmed Sanad.
'I heard rumours of the ban being lifted, but we cannot open our outlets based on that, we have to wait for an official response,' said Sanad, who also owns the one-star Al Zubara Hotel.
'Al hotels are still abiding by the ban and no one is operating illegally.'
Some of the hotels said they were still fully booked with guests arriving for the F1, but those looking for live entertainment or alcohol will be spending their money elsewhere.
Others say they have no business and are being forced to lay off staff, which also meant having to find money to pay them their final settlements.
'This ban has made a big impact on us because we need to give out the settlements of our staff who will be laid off,' said Bahrain Carlton Hotel human resources co-ordinator Maria Clara Al Cantara.
'We are already looking into travel arrangements but this is not right, we should have been given at least a one-year or six-month period.
'We might be laying off around 70 people and we are still looking for a way to break it to them easily.'
Al Cantara said that the management was still not sure what exactly to do with the employees.
'The management are really not keen on laying them off because they do not want them to lose their only source of income,' she said.
'The employees, who are currently on a two week break, are asking us if we will send them back home and it is really embarrassing for us because we are put in a very tight spot.'
She said the hotel was fully booked for the F1, but could not predict what would happen afterwards.
Other hotels said business was bad, with all their outlets closed.
On Sunday, hotels appealed for a one-year grace period before the implementation of the ban.
Hotel owners approached Sanad and said they wanted to protest and seek justice from courts.
However, he told them the best way was to seek the leadership's help before using other means of protest.
Sanad met Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and presented him with a letter on behalf of hotel owners.
Hotel owners explained that they were not given a chance and asked for a year to upgrade their hotels to three-star. The Premier reportedly said he would look into the matter.
Hotels warned that hundreds of staff could be laid off as a result of the new ban.-TradeArabia News Service