Covid-19: As cap on attendees back, Delhi banquet and hotels owners struggle to retain clients
Deepak Sharma (48), a bakery shop owner in Najafgarh, made frantic calls to relatives to look for a new venue for his son’s wedding, scheduled on November 25, after Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal approved the government’s proposal to restrict the number of guests at marriage-related events to 50 amid a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Sharma had booked a resort in Mundka for the wedding. “With the help of our relatives, we found another resort in Ballabhgarh, Faridabad. Now, we are busy informing all our relatives about the change of venue and making arrangements for transportation. There is complete panic and chaos in the household instead of fun and enjoyment,” said Sharma.
Like Sharma, many people are now looking for alternate venues in the National Capital Region—Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram, Faridabad, Sonipat etc—so that they can accommodate all the invitees.
Delhi Disaster Management Authority’s (DDMA) decision has proved to be disastrous for the wedding industry in the Capital. Tent houses, banquets and hotels claim that they are bombarded with cancellation calls or asking for refund.
Nitin Gulati, owner of Gulati tent house, said that he has got nine cancellations in just two days. “We had erected the tents for a capacity of 200 people. Now, our clients are looking for venues in neighbouring areas. We have started removing tents after nine clients cancelled the event,” said Gulati.
He added, “This year has been disastrous for us. After no work for 7-8 months due to Covid-19, we were looking forward to the wedding season to stay afloat. We had called labour from Bengali and UP. Now, I don’t know how to pay them, as clients are asking for a refund,” said Gulati.
Vikaas Gutgutia, managing director and founder, Ferns N Petals — which is into luxury venues since 2003 —, said, “For the Indian wedding industry, recovery was on the cards, but businesses will again come to a standstill, as we are facing the brunt of Diwali crowds at markets. We have been getting calls from clients who had opted for a venue in Delhi, to enquire, if the functions can be organised at our venues in the NCR. In the coming days, all our 11 wedding venues are booked to host 10-12 weddings each but we are now anticipating changes or delays.”
Associations of banquets, tent houses and hotels are still trying to approach the Delhi government and the L-G to reconsider the decision. Ramesh Dang, president of Community Welfare Banquet Association Delhi, said, “We have written to the CM to reconsider the decision, as it will result in the collapse of the sector. People are now opting for neighbouring areas in UP and Haryana. We have 1 million families associated with us. It will lead to large scale unemployment,” said Dang.
Struggling to retain their clients, hotels and banquets are trying to offer them different options. Greesh Bindra, vice president, operations, at Suryaa hotel, said, “We are getting a lot of calls from concerned clients who are asking for refund. We have 4-5 venues, including big outdoor spaces at our hotels. We are suggesting them different options such as holding events at two different venues in the hotel or holding multiple events so that the guests can be divided. We have also suggested that some guests come for lunch while others for dinner.”
The government’s sudden decision will hurt the industry in the next wedding season starting from January, as people don’t want any uncertainty in their plans. “This atmosphere of uncertainty will impact the next wedding season in Delhi,” said Bindra.
Calling the restriction over the number of guests unjustified, Pankaj Shokeen, general secretary, Delhi tent owners’ federation, said, “The cinema halls are allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Buses are running full capacity. The markets are crowded. But the restriction is just for weddings. Why? In wedding events, people know each other. But in cinema halls or buses, people sitting next to each other are complete strangers. There is no logic in the decision.”