Hotel industry gears up for New Year bashes to make up for slump

Written by Sonali Chowdhury | Sonali Chowdhury | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 31 2008, 06:52am hrs
At a time when the countrys restaurants and pubs, reeling under a slump of 15-20% in the businesses, are trying to swim across the troubled waters, New Year bashes may not be able to script a turnaround story for the industry.

According to industry sources, restobars and standalone pubs have already suffered a setback of 30 to 40%this year, owing to economic meltdown, and it is only last week that the business, moving at a snails pace so far this year, started gaining some momentum. In the Capital, the booking volume for New Year parties is nearly 25-30% less than that of last year even as hotels and standalone restaurants are slashing booking charges, say sources.

There is definitely a slump in our business. We have a chain of restaurants in Gurgoan catering to corporate clients and there has been 15 to 20% decline in bookings. People this time are opting for private parties in farmhouses with their personal caterers and DJs or bands. As a result, not too many big bashes are happening and not many entertainers are coming, says Puneet Roy, CEO Seasons Group, who was the F&B director with the Oberoi Group.

As people are not too comfortable loosing strings to their purses, industry players are gearing up to tide over the situation. Some restaurants and pubs have reduced the normal per head charges for private parties, while others have stopped taking cover charges at the entrance. They are offering complementary drinks like shooters, martinis, tequila etc to ladies. The trickle of customers to the pubs is being ensured by bringing new DJs on the floor and playing music of customers choice. Few restaurants have also extended happy hours.

We have initially priced the package for New Year at Rs 15,000 but reduced it to Rs 12,000 due to the slowdown. Through customers feedback we observed that people are refusing for huge gathering so again we are keeping the crowd to a limited number so that people can enjoy without any worries, said Subhash Bhosle of F Bar&Lounge, Ashoka Hotel.

The meltdown coupled with terror attacks has made people thrifty as they are looking for options other than visiting pubs. Hardcore party hopers are also opting for New Year celebrations abroad. As a result the hotel industry is struggling this year, said Surajit Phukan, Operation Manager, Kuki XO, Restobar.

Five-star hotels in the Capital have adopted aggressive sales and marketing approach to drive their business.

Claridges Hotels & Resorts in December has witnessed a dip in the business by almost 30% and in terms of actual occupancy percentage point there is a decline of 17% compared to last year. They have announced Global Meltdown Tariff keeping in view the global recessionary trend.

Experts feel by next year the industry will be able to tide over the crisis and it will get back to its usual business.

Terror attacks had a devastating effect on the entire industry. However the world has seen similar events in London, Madrid etc, therefore, I firmly believe that the business will bounce back very strongly for both corporate & leisure segments within a short span of time, said Peter J. Leitgeb, president & CEO, The Claridges Hotels & Resorts.

Peter J. Leitgeb also suggested that the ministry of tourism must introduce aggressive sales & marketing campaign in the key feeder markets like Asia, Europe, UK and America as it would help reassure our supportive market that India is still incredible and safe place to travel and to do business.

Hotels have beefed up security ahead of the New Year celebrations.