Rescue plan for Bahrain's hospitality sector

A rescue package for the hospitality sector has been proposed by the country’s main business body.

A series of recommendations to help the industry survive the financial impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak includes paying at least 50 per cent of wages for expat workers.

The proposal has been put forward by the Hospitality and Tourism Committee of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).

The GDN reported last week that hundreds of people, including Bahrainis, working in four and five-star properties were asked to go on unpaid leave, accept pay cuts or delayed wages due to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Hospitality and Tourism Committee head Jehad Amin told the GDN yesterday that the support package was proposed following a meeting with representatives from the hospitality sector, travel agencies and tourist companies.

He did not reveal details of the rescue package but said it will help the sector stay afloat during this period.

He added that travel agents, diving companies and even those involved in water sports are among tourism related businesses affected.

“One of the proposed measures is for Tamkeen’s funds to cover the rents paid by diving and water sport companies as well as paying 50pc of salaries of expats in the hospitality sector,” he said.

“Globally the hospitality sector is affected and business here is hit hard.

“Also, many expats are being asked to go on leave as businesses restructure during this crucial period.”

The government has already withdrawn BD215 million from the Unemployment Fund to pay for the wages of Bahrainis in the private sector for April, May and June.

The fund is expected to support more than 100,000 Bahrainis, which is part of the government’s BD4.3 billion economic stimulus package that includes shouldering utility bills for all accounts for three months and waiving tourism levies until June.

According to projections by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, a loss of up to $50bn in spending by international visitors could be incurred as this year’s global tourist arrivals could decline between 20pc and 30pc.

The International Air Transport Association also projected that airline passenger revenues are set to plunge by 55pc, or $314bn, in 2020 due to the pandemic.


Industry expert Hameed Al Halwachi, who is also a member of the Hospitality and Tourism Committee, told the GDN that they hoped King Fahad Causeway would reopen by Eid Al Fitr, which will be celebrated across the Muslim world at the end of May, to help boost the industry.

The causeway has been closed since March 8 and is one of the main sources of tourists entering from neighbouring countries, while visas on arrival have been suspended since March 18 as part of travel restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.

“The Bahrain government has taken a wide range of measures to mitigate the economic impact and we are now looking forward to the review of the proposal in which 50pc of expat wages in the hospitality sector are covered,” he said.

“We hope the causeway opens for Eid next month as that will be a big boost for the businesses.”

Meanwhile, General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBTU) hotels and catering union head Suad Mubarak said there are over 8,000 people, including citizens, working in the hospitality sector.

“While the salaries of Bahrainis are covered, many expats working in hotels, especially in the food and beverages sector, are sitting idle at homes without any wages,” she told the GDN yesterday.

Bahrain’s hotels and restaurants sector recorded the highest non-oil sector annual growth last year at 6.8pc, according to the latest economic indicator report released by the Finance and National Economy Ministry.

The occupancy rates of four and five-star hotels also increased from 41pc and 49pc, respectively, in 2018 to 45pc and 52pc, respectively, in 2019.




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