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Bahrain: Hoteliers seek More Time

Bahrain's private sector yesterday urged the government to give hoteliers more time to reorganise their business under new tourism rules. The call came as one hotelier claimed the new rules would dent his revenues by 80 per cent.

A statement from the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that while it supports an upgrade of the tourism industry in principle, it does not see any reason for the ministry's rush to implement the new rules by March or April.

The statement said that new rules announced by Tourism Affairs, which falls under the information Ministry, would not only harm the welfare of the private sector but the good of the country as a whole.

"The chamber supports policies that aim to promote development of the industry and its future for the public good," it said.

"These policies should help to support the role of the industry in the development of the economy and job creation.

"The ministry, in its role as regulator of the tourism industry and the body responsible for granting licenses, should avoid implementing rules that will harm any hospitality or tourism establishment.

"The chamber hopes that the authorities will discuss these issues with the sector so that common ground can be reached. We also hope that the authorities will reconsider the deadlines to give the hotels more chance to implement these new rules."

The chamber said that private sector was currently working with the authorities through a joint committee, which had its first meeting on January 23.

The meeting discussed many issues related to the industry, including these latest developments, it said. The chamber's representatives had formally asked the government to extend the deadlines. The new rules ban alcohol and discos in hotels and restaurants in residential areas or near mosques or schools.

Meanwhile, some hoteliers are concerned that new tourism rules could result in their business dropping dramatically. One hotelier, who did not want to be named, said that his business could fall by as much as 80pc and that it would also result in many job losses.

"We employ staff, including Bahrainis and expatriates," he said. "If these rules take effect, the revenue generated by the hotel will be reduced to less than 20pc.

"This will adversely affect the overhead expenses, including the staff ratio. It would compel us to retrench about 80pc of our present staff,” he said.

Paying benefits to staff will become an additional burden to the investor, who also fears that the banks will also be looking to recover huge loans that were previously taken out for various investment projects.

"We have invested huge sums of money to start the project and as per the instruction of the concerned authorities, we again spent a lot to further upgrade the standards of the hotel during the holy month of Ramadan," said the investor.

He also objected to the new rules on recruiting live singers and bands from abroad, which will only be allowed for five-star hotels.

The investor said that these "smacks of elitism" would deprive people with lower income, who may not be able to afford to go to five-star hotels, of their right to entertainment.

"We would like to stress that the one to four star hotels are places where people from all walks of life can choose to relax,” he said.

"This ban, if executed, will have an adverse effect on the common man, restricting them from enjoying themselves during their free time and relieving their stress."-(TradeArabia News Service)

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