The Unique Hotel and Resorts Limited (UHRL), owner of The Westin Dhaka and a three-star hotel named Hansa, does not see any sign of riding out the Covid-19 pandemic rampage anytime soon, with its revenue continuing to dwindle because of poor guest occupancy.
From July to March in FY21, the hospitality company, which is listed on the capital market, registered a 67% decline in revenue to a little over Tk50 crore in contrast to Tk158 crore in FY20.
The company's total revenue stood at around Tk219 crore in FY19, the pre-pandemic year.
In this situation, Md Noor Ali, managing director of the UHRL, recently wrote to the National Board of Revenue (NBR) chairman, seeking an exemption from corporate taxes and VAT for the next five years.
"We had been managing our business with all these challenges hoping that Covid related restrictions would go away within mid-2021 as vaccination started to roll out and the global economy would come back to normalcy. Unfortunately, that is not the case so far," he wrote in the letter.
"During our good days, we paid more than Tk500 crore to the government. Now, in our bad days we request our government to help us sustain our business," he further said.
Since the inception of the company in Bangladesh in 2007, it has paid over Tk500 crore in taxes to the government. Of the amount, Tk339 crore was paid from FY07 to FY17, Tk57 crore in FY18, Tk56 crore in FY19, Tk38 crore in FY2020 and Tk9.90 crore till March in FY21.
From the private sector, the Unique hotel and Resorts Limited is the first hotel listed on the Dhaka Stock Exchange.
According to the company, it currently has more than 800 employees in its hotels and restaurants. The Westin in Gulshan has 235 rooms and Hansa in Uttara has 76 rooms.
HM Hakim Ali, president of the Bangladesh International Hotel Association, told The Business Standard that the hospitality sector will not be able to bounce back from such difficulties unless air communication becomes normal.
Five-star hotels are now running with 10% to 12% occupancy. But it requires 40% to 45% occupancy to reach the break-even point, he said.
Covid-19 has caused a financial loss of approximately Tk5,000 crore to this sector, he added.
The government provided incentives to other sectors to overcome the situation, but the hospitality sector did not get any such support, said Noor Ali in the letter to the NBR.
Since last year, the Covid-19 situation has been deteriorating at various times with occasional restrictions like lockdowns. A significant portion of the guests in such hotels are foreigners. The pandemic has caused a massive collapse in hotel, resort and restaurant businesses due to a decrease in people's travelling. All the big and small hotels are facing financial losses.
Nevertheless, the Unique hotel sees a good future in the hotel business. This year, the company is going to launch another five-star hotel in Banani. Within the next four years, it will start a seven-star hotel named St Regis Hotel in Gulshan.
On condition of anonymity, a senior official of the hotel company told TBS that they hope the bad days will go away.
"Lots of infrastructure development, such as building economic zones, metro rail and expressways are being done in the country. As a result, this sector's business will increase," he explained.
According to the financial statements published in fiscal 2019-2020, the Unique hotel had assets of Tk3,583 crore, while its liabilities stood at Tk1,237 crore.