As Kodagu unlocks, hotel industry faces labour shortage

Many workers who returned to their hometowns before lockdown are not returning, having found jobs locally

As Kodagu, one of the popular tourist destinations in South India, is finally unlocked, the pandemic-hit hotel industry that was keenly waiting for the curbs to be eased for resuming business is now facing labour shortage. Several workers who migrated to their hometowns before the lockdown are unlikely to come back.

Sources in the industry said nearly 50 per cent of the workforce who had gone back to their hometowns in April might not return as they have found jobs locally or migrated to other trades. They expressed unwillingness to come back when the hoteliers contacted them. This has led to worker shortage although it might not cause any immediate problem since hotels were resuming operations now.

Speaking to The Hindu, Kodagu Hotels, Restaurants and Resorts Association President B.R. Nagendra Prasad said Kodagu was the lone district in the State under lockdown and the curbs were eased with the drop in positivity rate. “We hope normal life returns to Kodagu and the tourism economy is revived.”

“A few of my workers, including cooks, are from North-Eastern States. The local ones have said they will return either tomorrow or Sunday. While some inter-State workers have sought time to return, a few others, including from other districts, have joined other jobs locally for livelihood. The shortage may remain for a few days until we get new workers,” Mr. Prasad said.

The operators of some hotels and resorts had been paying salaries (some in portions) to their workers to ensure they don’t leave their jobs because of lockdown. Such workers are returning. “Despite zero revenue, the workers, especially those serving for a long time, got their pay during lockdown.”

Most Kodagu hotels and resorts are expected to resume operations in full scale from Monday as they were readying their premises, including disinfection, to greet the guests. “The industry isready to ensure COVID-19 appropriate behaviour,” Mr. Prasad said, disclosing that the Kodagu hotel industry has been suffering a loss of ₹2.5 crore a day for over two-and-a-half months.

Unable to bear the loss, many hotels are unwilling to reopen and are mulling over selling their property.

In fact, the hotels were reluctant to clean up their premises for reopening until the curbs were lifted. “In the past, we had to shut the hotels immediately after the cleaning process because of new curbs. This time, we waited and started preparations for reopening only after an order was issued officially,” a hotelier said.

Also, with uncertainty over early revival of tourism because of fears of a third wave, the hotel industry is not very hopeful about their earnings like pre-COVID-19 days.

Kodagu has about 5,500 hotel rooms besides over 2,000 legally-run homestays and resorts, including the high-end ones. “There used to be a time when all of them would be occupied in the entire season. This was in pre-COVID-19 days and the years before the floods/landslides hit the district. Tourism has not picked up since 2018, the year when the district was shaken by devastating floods and landslides. It’s a double-whammy,” Mr. Prasad felt.

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