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Indian-American hotelier requests VP Pence to open up US economy

PTI | Washington DC | Updated: 21-05-2020 16:12 IST | Created: 21-05-2020 16:12 IST
Indian-American hotelier requests VP Pence to open up US economy

An prominent Indian-American hotelier has requested Vice President Mike Pence to reopen the US economy as millions of people depending on the hotel, travel and tourism industry are on the verge of being thrown into deep poverty amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The US economy, frozen by COVID-19 shutdowns, is in the process of thawing out. All 50 states have at least partially eased tight restrictions on businesses, with a mix of policies letting restaurants or stores welcome customers.

"It is impossible to survive (during COVID 19) when everything is closed down. Just in the first four months, we lost USD1 million in revenue in my two hotels. So, it is very difficult to survive,” hotelier Danny Gaekwad from Florida told PTI after he participated in a round table with Vice President Pence in Orlando. Gaekwad spoke on behalf of the influential Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) at the roundtable on the hospitality and tourism industry in Orlando, Florida which was chaired by Pence.

The AAHOA accounts for more than 50 per cent of the hotels and motels in the United States. More than 90 per cent members of AAHOA are of Indian-origin and over 60 per cent of them are from Gujarat. The only Indian-American to present at the roundtable, Gaekwad told Pence that he strongly supports President Donald Trump’s effort to open the American economy. Having gone through the two previous major economic crises this century – 9/11 and 2008 – Gaekwad said that the decisions being taken by the Trump administration to save the economy and protect the people is unprecedented.

“This is the fastest and quickest administration that has ever acted in my career of 60 years of my life. I have never seen any president taking this much unprecedented decision popular or less popular and in sending money home. Yes, now that money is home, please give us some more hope so that we can survive,” Gaekwad said in his plea at the meeting, which among others was attended by the Florida Governor as well. The Vice President after the roundtable, praised Gaekwad for raising the issue on behalf of the Indian-American hotel owners. “We told him that we must open up the economy. Every fourth job in the US is from the hospitality industry,” he said.

Gaekwad warned that in the absence of opening up the economy, there would-be large-scale suicides, death and depression, which would be 10 times more than COVID 19. Later in a statement, Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, said the dollar will face a bigger crisis of poverty in the absence of opening up the economy.

“President Trump has always been an optimist and a motivational force. Trump’s focus on reopening the country's economy safely is another prudent step by him,” he said. “The best economists teach us that there is a bigger crisis than the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing... and that is “poverty.” The United States under President Trump -- post coronavirus -- will emerge stronger than ever,” Mason said.

Gaekwad said that he came to this country as an immigrant and his whole family works in business. “My wife is here. My two sons are here. My manager is here because it does bother us,” he said. “I represent here more than 20,000 members of Asian American Hotel Owners Association, which are 99.9 per cent descent from India. We all came with the American dream. I thought I had seen 9/11. Then I thought I saw the worst recession in my lifetime. But I have never seen this, and I was never prepared for this. And I don't know what to do with this (Coronavirus pandemic),” he told Pence.

Gaekwad said, last year in April the occupancy rate of his hotel was 75 per cent. This year it came down to 12 per cent. In April last year his hotel had a USD 340,000 in revenue. This year in April, his revenue was just USD 38,000. “My monthly (mortgage) installment with the bank is USD 107,000. How do I cope up with this? I don't know. I am using whatever resources I have,” he said adding that he cannot sustain longer.

This is the story of every Indian-American hotel owner, Gaekwad said. “This is the same story (of Indian American hotel owners). You go from Boston to Miami, from Miami to Los Angeles, most of the (highway) exists anywhere you will see Indian-American hotel owners,” he said.

“If there is no guest, there is no dollar. If there is no dollar, there is no liquidity,” Gaekwad said, adding that he echoes the voice and sentiment of the AAHOA. The Indian American who owns several hotels in many States said that he was representing AAHOA at the roundtable. During the roundtable, he was at pain to explain how the hotel industry is increasing under the loan of financial institutions.

The novel coronavirus which first originated in Wuhan in December last year has claimed 328,120 lives and infected nearly 5 million people globally. The Us is the worst affected country with 93,439 deaths and over 1.5 million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University data..



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