Budget hotels and uncertain future

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

After being severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in the peak season (March and April), residential buildings-turned-budget hotels in Phuentsholing have seen a slight surge in business this month.

Sonam Cheki, the owner of Thuenpa Puenzhi Hotel in Lower Market said that she had subleased seven of the hotel’s 12 rooms from May 20.

“This has been the most sensible option,” she said. Tenants are individuals Indians working in Phuentsholing.

Sonam Cheki also said that loan waiver helped her, as her owner waived 50 percent of the rent.

However, with the loan waiver period coming to an end, Sonam Cheki and others like her are worried.

Jigme Dorji of Khamzang Hotel said that loan waiver helped his business. But he is worried about what might the future hold.

“I have four staffs, all from across the border. We survived because of the loan waiver.”

Khamzang Hotel has 25 rooms but only three rooms are occupied on average daily these days.

Jigme Dorji said that he was getting some business only because about 80 percent of hotels in Phuentsholing were being used as quarantine facilities.

“The business has seen slight improvement this month,” he said.

Suman Gurung of Gaki Phunsum Hotel said she got reservation for only about two rooms in a week.

“I have reduced the rooms rates from Nu 1,200 to Nu 500 and from Nu 1,800 to Nu 900,” she said.

Gaki Phunsum has just five rooms.

Compared to the initial days of pandemic, the business was improving, Suman Gurung said. Many hoteliers expect that change of closing time from 7 pm to 9 pm help improve the hotel business.

She could not pay hotel rent for March, April, and May.

As per the trade office in Phuentsholing, there are more than 118 hoteliers in Phuentsholing. About 11 residential buildings were converted into hotels last year.

Gyem Sangay of Dogar Hotel said that although star hotels suffered more, initially, they got business by turning their facilities to quarantine centres but the budget hotels were suffering without clients.

From June 15, business started to improve slightly, he said. The hotel gets at least five registrations in a day.

Manager of a three star Gadhen Hotel, Ugyen Dorji, said that the business afloat only because the hotel was used as a quarantine centre.

“Otherwise, we would have zero earning,” he said.

Ugyen Dorji pays staff salaries from the working capital the banks have allowed.

Forty-one hotels have registered as quarantine facilities in Phuentsholing.

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