COVID-19 impact on Airlines and Hotels

MoEA Minister says supplies will be maintained

It is inevitable that COVID-19 will have consequences which would affect the market and the daily activities in the economy, and here we are on the first week after the first positive case had been detected in the country, where most shopkeepers and businesses are running on losses.

Major industries have been hit hard and concerns are not limited to money but primarily health among the people. Tourism, hotels, transportation and now local businesses are among the many feeling the repercussions of the global outbreak and a crisis.

Hoteliers, already burdened with loans, are carrying on business without tourists or locals commuting as usual.

Sangay, Manager, Hotel Migmar revealed that there has been 295 room cancellation during the peak tourist time. He added, “Currently, we are working with low number of staff and have sent the rest on paid leave. For now, we are anticipating and constantly monitoring the news.”

Aruna Humagai, Hotel Palm, Phuentsholing said, “We have seen a drastic fall in our guests and I believe this is due to Coronavirus concerns. I think the government is doing the best it can and we hope that the virus is contained sooner world-wide.”

Other hotels, like Tashi Delek, Samita, Norling, mentioned that the employees don’t have any work at the moment. As per their statements, only a few guests turned up to check-in since the news and they are concerned about paying their bank loans, while some are even concerned with regulating the personnel.

As for the airlines industries, they seem patient for now and are hopeful of better things.

Acting CEO, DrukAir, Rinzin Dorji, stated, “The impact on Drukair and the tourism sector as a whole will be huge if the COVID-19 situation continues. This concern must be the same in all other sectors as well. Our flights are continuing to operate so that tourists still in the country can exit, and Bhutanese outside can return.”

“This is actually one of the two annual peak season periods for tourist arrivals to Bhutan. Passenger load is historically high at this time of the year. So, to have this situation at this particular time will have a huge impact on our financial position. Cancellation requests are coming in daily, for which we allow 100 percent refund in these difficult and unfortunate times,” he added.

Bhutan Airlines CEO, Phala Dorji also said that it has really affected the airline, and currently their flights have been suspended.

He added, “March is usually the peak season and this timing of flight cancellations and refund couldn’t have come at a worse time. Currently we are in dialogues with travel agents and our customers to bear with us until this is over.”

The Bhutanese in an interview with the MoEA Minister Loknath Sharma asked about the economic strategies to government would have to likely devised if the situation persists.

Lyonpo said, “Different sectors and concerned bodies have been further directed into achieving better economic balance. We have been setting up economic roadmaps and carrying out other plans even before the outbreak, so we should be in a good place given that, we have prioritized these sectors to look into the matter; sectors inclusive of the Ministry of Finance (MoF), the Royal Monetary Authority (RMA) and other relevant bodies to develop effective economic contingency plans and measures.”

He added, “Tourism sector will have a great impact now, as this is a global crisis and the forces are external. Most of the countries are closing borders and flights.”

He said hotels industry would also face similar struggles. But people must not panic when it comes to stocking up on food supplies and transportation within the country.

“We have conversated with the Food Corporation of Bhutan (FCB) to stock up food which would be sufficient for at least 3-6 months. Fuel and LPG have also been considered and we assure that, there will not be a lack in these items should the situation worsen.  Also, we have advised through the Office of Consumer Protection to sellers to not hoard and inflate prices given the situation.”

“Our biggest concern on this pandemic is, if it carries on for longer than anticipated- will be in regard to unemployment but at least we can say that, being a small country, we may be able to curb that as well in due time. The economy had already been in a bad shape and we are unfortunate that we have this new battle,” Lyonpo added.

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