The Indian Supreme Court's move to ban sale of liquor at establishments within 500m of state and national highways in a bid to curb drunk driving, is expected to dent business events in the country where land scarcity in the city centre has driven larger, newer venues to be developed close to highways.
S M Shervani, managing director of The Shervani Group, said the impact would be felt down the road when large convention centres built for the future are opened.
"For India to compete with other international cities we need convention hall for about 10,000 people, but such large venues cannot be placed in city centres due to the lack of land. They can only come up in areas near highways," Shervani said.
Citing an example, Shervani pointed to an international convention centre being built in Kerala by Dubai-based Lulu Group, slated to be opened in September 2017.
"A huge investment has been made on this facility but with the liquor ban how will it attract domestic (business events), let alone international ones?” remarked Shervani.
And with affordable hotels being located near highways too, Indian hoteliers are just as concerned about the future of their F&B and banqueting business.
Sudesh Poddar, director of Nataraj Group of Hotels, told TTGmice: “(Business event) clients prefer hotels that are near highways as they are reasonably priced as compared to city hotels."
Poddar predicted that event planners, turned off by the liquor ban at affordable hotels in the restricted zone and pricey city centre alternatives, would take their business out of India.
Since the ban was announced and set in motion on April 1, the number of enquiries for new events at hotels in the restricted zone have started to dip, according to sources.
“We expect hotels (in those areas) to lose 60 to 70 per cent of their business events. Different taxation in different states was already making it hard to host a (business event) in India, and now with the liquor ban the situation is even more challenging," lamented Garish Oberoi, vice president, Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association of India.
"A lot of international business events will now be lost to destinations like Thailand and Dubai,” Oberon added.