Hawassa hotels occupancy rates drops to 6%

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The southern region’s capital city, Hawassa, which in normal times has nearly 100 percent hotel room occupancy has only had a six percent occupancy rate in July. Since conflict occurred on July 18 the situation has gotten worse.
Hotel owners who spoke with Capital said restaurants and cafes have seen a 70 percent decrease in business. People who want to visit Hawassa are reserving hotels Sashamane and Zeway.
There are 11 hotels with star ratings and 12 without which employ over 2,000 people.
Lewi, Hawasa Central, Haile Resort, Pyramid, Ker/ Awud, Rori, Tadesse Enjori, South Star, Hawassa Lake View are star hotels hit by low occupancy rates.
Henok Shimels a consultant for Ker/ Awud Hotel told Capital “unless peace and tranquility is restored in Hawassa the hotel industry will be in real danger because many hotels witnessed a sharp drop in their business this month , [with] many of them indebted to banks.’’
“Last Friday was the yearly celebration of St. Gabriel and on this day thousands of Orthodox Tewahdo believers would have come to the city to celebrate but this time there are only few visitors,’’ he added
Henok asked the National Bank of Ethiopia to order banks to elongate the return of the loans.
“We can’t pay our loans with this kind of situation and the banks should understand that and work with us by elongating the return of the loan payments,’’ he added.
Another hotel representative said, “since July, some foreign states have warned their citizens not to visit Hawassa and this has deeply affected our business,” he said, adding that five-star hotels that mainly rely on foreigners are the most affected. Now foreign people are afraid to visit Hawassa for the time because they fear that they do not have a safe exit if the situation deteriorates further.”
“Now we are trying to minimize damages by laying off some employees because we can not afford to pay all of our expenses and some hotels are starting to remove part-time employees and some have started cutting back on fixed employees. But if the situation deteriorates further we will start giving people their day offs or even ask them to work for free,” he added.
Yared Feyissa, owner of South Star Hotel fears that the hotels will shut their business if peace is not secured. “If you don’t have customers you can’t get money and if you can’t get money you will not pay salary for your employees and we are experiencing it now and if it will continue like this shutting the business is the only option.’’
Hawasa has experienced trouble since Sidama activists vigorously pushed to unilaterally declare a new regional state on July 18.
The threat of large-scale violence in the regional capital Hawassa was largely averted after a Sidama opposition party agreed to delay the declaration and accept a government offer to hold a referendum in five months, not all Sidama people accepted the delay. Currently the city is under the control of a command post formed by the federal government. The number of people killed in Sidama zone since July 18 has risen to 35 and 400 civilians have fled their homes.