Empty hotels ‘keep the lights on’ by converting into paying guest accommodations among others

The COVID-19 pandemic shook the hotel industry particularly hard, and turned many hotel businesses upside down.

However, necessity is the mother of invention and empty hotels across the country are finding ways to keep the lights on by converting themselves into restaurants or temporary housing.

Hotels big, small and newly opened are looking for ways to survive the unprecedented economic fallout,

Operation Manager of Pelyang Boutique in Thimphu Sonam Tobgay said that as a newly opened hotel, the hotel remained closed for a month since the pandemic started and to sustain their living and to keep the doors open they opened a restaurant in the hotel.

“We opened on March 1st and had to close on March 6th due to the outbreak of COVID. It was hard for the proprietor to lay off his staffs, so the staffs were sent on leave without pay.  However, the proprietor gave us the opportunity to run a restaurant and  we didn’t wanted to sit back and mourn at our situation rather we took this as a challenge and to sustain our living we opened a restaurant in the hotel,” he said.

He said, “We started opening the restaurant and kept around 15 staffs so that every individual could sustain their livelihood during this pandemic. The hotel is new in the market and most of the people doesn’t know about it, so we took this as an advantage to bring our hotel’s name in the market by opening the restaurant.”

The proprietor of Hotel Glory Dawa said, “Something is better than nothing. So we have made our hotel into a paying guest accommodation and the situation has improved compared to the past few months.”

He added that at the moment his hotel rooms are occupied and people come and stay for a few months and they leave and then new ones come.

There are also other hotels in Thimphu which have temporarily converted into pay guest accommodations for students preparing for the RCSC exams. The rates vary but are much cheaper than taking an entire apartment and there is also the advantage of even reasonable priced meals and even laundry for some.

Another proprietor of Hotel Sonamgang in Punakha said that they are operating their hotel when they have guests and remain closed when there is none.

“Even when we receive few people staying in one room we open for them and since our hotel is three star there is not much problem because we receive local guest and even the officials who comes for retreat and meetings,’ she said, adding that the workers are hired when the hotel receives a guest.

She added, “This is the time where we have to entertain even a single guest for us to be able to keep our doors open.”

Owner of KTM hotel in Bumthang said that his hotel has been closed since the outbreak of COVID in the country and it will continue till the tourists come in.

“Even if we keep our hotels open for one to two people we have to have staffs for cleaning, cooking and to manage other works and it will be difficult for us to pay them,” he said.

Owner of Gadhen Hotel in Phuentsholing said that since March his hotel has been used as a quarantine center and still continuing.

“The lights are on since it is used as one of the quarantine centers in Phuentsholing and at least we are surviving,” he said.

Similarly, many hotels big and small in Thimphu and Paro have also been used as quarantine centers. It at least helps to keep the staff employed and pay the bills.

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