Sikkim’s hotel industry has suffered huge losses due to the lockdown and the state’s decision to ban the entry of foreigners and Indian citizens before other states did so, has also led to financial loss for hotel owners. But, hotel owners now are a happy lot since local people are paying for rooms to stay in quarantine. Many of these are star hotels but the Sikkim government has fixed the rate at Rs 1000 a day plus taxes including all food.
According to the hotel owners, there has been a huge response from local people returning from other states as they are barred from staying at home but have the option of staying in paid quarantine at hotels. For those who cannot afford hotels, the Sikkim government offers institutional quarantine. Returnees have to stay in free or paid quarantine facilities for 14 days before going for home quarantine for another 14 days. Sikkim so far has only one Covid-19 positive case.
In sharp contrast, hotels in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri in adjoining West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress government offers a similar option, have practically done no business because staying at home is an option in the state. Also, the hotels in Bengal’s hill districts are more expensive.
Raj Yadav, District Collector of east Sikkim district, said, “30 to 40 per cent returnees are going for paid quarantine in hotels where we have fixed the rate at Rs 1000 a day plus taxes including breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. Most of the hotels requisitioned by the government belong to star category.”
Arun Tamang, front office manager of Royal Plaza Hotel in Gangtok said, “Most of our 55 rooms are occupied for paid quarantine.”
Bishnu Acharyay, front office manager of the Lemon Tree Hotel, a four-star property, said, “We have hosted 127 people living in paid quarantine.”
“In Siliguri, where the Bengal government has earmarked 21 hotels for paid quarantine, there are hardly any takers,” said Ujjal Ghosh, joint secretary, Greater Siliguri Hoteliers Welfare Association.
Biplab Ghosh, owner of Swastik Hotel in Siliguri, said, “I have only two guests staying in paid quarantine.”
“There are not even 21 people in 21 hotels in Siliguri,” said a hotel owner who requested anonymity. “The Bengal government has not made free or paid quarantine mandatory for returnees. It has allowed returnees to stay at home. Who will come to stay in a hotel?” he asked.
Though they did not speak on record, hoteliers in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri said guests have to pay more than their counterparts in Sikkim despite a 40 per cent discount being offered. Moreover, guests have to pay for food separately. The room rates vary from Rs 960 to Rs 3000 per person exclusive of taxes.
Samden Dukpa, executive director and nodal officer for Covid-19, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in Darjeeling, said hotels expressed their regret that they could not offer their services for free.
“Only three hotels in Darjeeling are hosting returnees for free while meals are being provided by GTA,” said Suraj Sharma, assistant director, tourism department, GTA.