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As Bangladeshis rush to catch flights (most of which have been cancelled), buses and trains back home, room occupancy dropped at hotels across Sudder Street, Marquis Street and at guest houses near private hospitals along the EM Bypass, which saw a sharp dip in patient count.
The number of shoppers at New Market and adjoining central Kolkata shopping complexes has also plunged to almost half in the course of the last one week.
With the virus threat set to persist, the flight of Bangladeshi clients could continue to hurt the city’s revenues, fear stakeholders.
While private hospitals stand to lose revenue of Rs 300 crore a month from Bangladeshi patients, most of whom seek outdoor consultation, central Kolkata’s shopping complexes are set to lose Rs 120 crore. Bangladeshi buyers account for a turnover of Rs 4 crore per day at these markets, including New Market. The loss of revenue for hotels across Marquis Street and Sudder Street — the haunt of foreign backpackers and also medical tourists, mostly Bangladeshis — could add up to Rs 15 crore a month, according to stakeholders. Guest houses that host Bangladeshi patients and other business activities that are going to be affected could add up to another Rs 5 crore, said sources.
AMRI Hospitals has seen a 50% drop in Bangladeshi patient count across outpatient departments (OPDs) at its three units at Mukundapur, Dhakuria and Salt Lake since the last week. The hospital usually gets around 1,200 Bangladeshi patients a month. At RN Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS), there has been a 30% drop since Saturday. The hospital receives around 5,000 patients from Bangladesh a month.
At Peerless Hospital, the Bangladeshi patient count has dropped to around 40 from the usual figure of around 100 daily. Around 15% of its total patients are from the neighbouring country.
Narayana Superspecialty Hospital in Howrah has also witnessed a 30% dip in Bangladeshi patients. “Bangladeshi patients constitute more than 15% of our total patient count. More than 200 Bangladeshi patients visit our OPD each day. Things could get worse over the next few days,” said R Venkatesh, RTIICS zonal director.
Hotels across Marquis Street and Sudder Street wore a deserted look on Sunday. Nearly 90% of their occupants — Bangladeshis visiting Kolkata for tourism and treatment — have left, leaving them staring at a huge loss. Room occupancy across more than 40 hotels in the area has dropped to less than 10%. Hotel Oriental on Marquis Street, for instance, hosts around 70 Bangladeshi visitors on any given day. On Sunday, the figure was just 10. “Around 95% of our guests are from Bangladesh, so we are staring at a shutdown. Our daily revenue has dropped from Rs 60,000 to just Rs 5,000,” manager Gurmit Singh told TOI.
Other hotels are also feeling the pinch. Hotel Samrat on Sudder Street has just 16 guests in its 37 rooms. Till last week, it used to host 90 Bangladeshi guests each day. At Hotel DK International, there were just two guests — both Bangladeshis — occupying just two rooms, on Sunday. The other 38 rooms at the hotel were vacant. “This is an unprecedented situation. We have never experienced such a sharp drop in occupancy. If this persists for a few days more, which now seems inevitable, we will have to shut down. Things have never been worse,” said Prem Ghosh of Hotel Samrat.
Once its last two Bangladeshi guests leave on Monday, Hotel Astoria on Sudder Street will be left with a single visitor. “Ninety per cent of our guests are Bangladeshis. The nCoV outbreak has reduced our daily revenue to just Rs 4,000 from Rs 25,000,” said a manager.
New Market and its adjoining shopping complexes, too, have been hit hard by the flight of Bangladeshi patrons. Around 40% of the 50,000 daily visitors at these markets are from Bangladesh. While they have a collective daily turnover of Rs 7.5 crore, Bangladeshis comprise 55% of the buyers, and contribute around Rs 4 crore to the daily total turnover.
“Since 2002, when the digging up of Lindsay Street for the underground Parkomat led to transitional customers deserting the market due to lack of space to park cars, it has been customers from Bangladesh who have sustained the market,” said Ashok Gupta, president of SS Hogg Market Traders’ Association. “On any given day, 40% of customers are Bangladeshis. The ratio doubles ahead of Eid. They contribute to more than 55% of the turnover, of not just New Market, but other markets in the vicinity. Since Thursday, footfall has declined drastically and so has business. We are starting at a very bleak period for the heritage market that is already in distress.”
With Bangladeshi patients exiting private hospitals, small hotels and guest houses around them, too, are deserted. Several guest houses near the Tata Medical Centre in New Town were left without occupants on Sunday. “All my four Bangladeshi guests left on Saturday,” said Samaresh Mandal, a guest house owner at New Town’s DB Block. Occupancy has dropped by 80% at Jayanti Guest House opposite RTIICS. “We depend on Bangladeshi patients, who have traditionally formed the bulk of our guests. Occupancy had been steadily dropping over the last seven days, and now we are left with a couple who will leave by Monday,” said an employee.
(With inputs from Prithvijit Mitra, Sumati Yengkhom, Tanmaya Das, Subhojyoti Kanjilal, Mayukh Sengupta & Amit Moulick)