Exclusive, Hariyadi Sukamdani: Hotel Entrepreneurs Are Like Prisoners Waiting For Shooting Teams

Now almost all businesses are affected by the corona pandemic. Likewise hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs who are members of the PHRI (Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association). However, for hoteliers, said Hariyadi Sukamdani, General Chair of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) in the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. He likened the hotelier to a prisoner waiting for a firing squad. What is the situation like at the moment. He told the VOI team.


The statement of the man whose full name is Dr. Ir. Hariyadi Budi Santoso Sukamdani, MM., this is not an exaggeration. As the General Chairperson of the PHRI, he revealed the actual conditions that occurred. Thousands of hotels spread across Indonesia had to be closed by their owners because hotel occupancy had drastically decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a video conference in mid 2020 ago, the President Director of PT. Hotel Sahid Jaya International Tbk., once revealed data about hotels that are not strong enough to withstand the waves of this pandemic. There are 1,642 hotels that must be closed and 352 restaurants under the auspices of the PHRI. Remember that data for April 2020. That data will definitely change significantly in 2021. Unfortunately, he has not been able to share more detailed data when it comes to the number of hotels and restaurants that have to stop operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and this Emergency PPKM.

So what about the latest data on hotels and restaurants that are closed? "I can't provide the latest data about hotels and restaurants that are closed, later when we have the data we will inform you. The latest data in May 2020 the number of hotels that were closed was more than 2,100 hotels. But now many have reopened even though they are operating at a loss,” he said.

Even though he gave optimistic news, the man born in Jakarta, February 4, 1965, gave a very sad parable about the reality that happened to his colleagues who were members of the PHRI. “The hotelier is like a prisoner who will face a firing squad. We hope that this pandemic will end, vaccinations will be completed and herd immunity will be established. And after that the situation slowly returned to normal. That's what we all hope for," he said.

Between hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs, according to the CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator) certificate holder from the American Hotel & Lodging Institute, the condition of restaurant entrepreneurs is slightly better. The problem is that hotel entrepreneurs are forced to lay off 50 percent of their employees to survive, while restaurant entrepreneurs only have 30-40 percent. “If the restaurant still has online orders. That can be a safety for them so that they can survive even though the pandemic is still hitting, "said Hariyadi to Edy Suherli and from VOI who interviewed him virtually recently. Here is the full excerpt.

Hariyadi Sukamdani. (Photo: Private Dock, DI: Raga/VOI)

What are the real conditions facing hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs amidst the onslaught of this corona pandemic?

The conditions experienced by businessmen who are members of the PHRI (Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association) are very serious. Moreover, there is no certainty how long this pandemic will end. During this pandemic, hotel occupancy dropped dramatically, aka free fall. Until now, the hotel occupancy rate in Indonesia, especially in Bali, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and other big cities is still in single digits. The restaurant sector has also slumped, although there is little hope because restaurants are still serving customer requests online.

What makes it not strong is that operational costs such as electricity, employee salaries and other costs continue to be incurred while there are very few guests. In addition, if those who have dependents on bank loans or other third parties, it is also very difficult. How to pay installments, just to cover operations is difficult.

At the time of the Emergency PPKM which was set on July 3, 2021 yesterday the situation was getting worse and more difficult. So we are in a difficult situation. In fact, it is not only the hotel and restaurant sectors that are affected, other sectors such as aviation, travel, and other tourism sectors are also affected. Which sectors are spared from the current pandemic? Almost everyone was affected.

Isn't there a hotel that is used as a place to isolate COVID-19 patients?

Indeed, there are hotels that are used as places for isolation patients and where health workers stay and for repatriation (returning someone to their homeland, ed) are also accommodated in hotels. But not all hotels get it, the number is limited. Even then, the payment is still delayed because the government is still allocating the budget for more important posts. Now the government is no longer using hotels to isolate COVID-19 patients.

How many hotels are used for self-isolation and accommodation for health workers who have not been paid and how much is the value?

In Jakarta there are 21 hotels that are used for isoman, lodging for health workers and repatriation. The value is IDR 190 billion. Some of them were used in December 2020 and January 2021. Some of them had not been paid for six months.

So far, what we know of the problem is that the budget is not derived from the Ministry of Finance. He said that it would be budgeted for in 2021. Initially, the order was the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB). The purpose of using this hotel is to reduce the burden on Wisma Atlet. At that time BNPB had the discretion to use the budget. But in the next process it turned out not to be. The government budget has run out, isolation has been diverted to other places. What is being empowered now are government-owned flats, hajj dormitories, and other places that will be used as shelters for COVID-19 patients.

Hariyadi Sukamdani. (Photo: Private Dock, DI: Raga/VOI)

Under these conditions, what are the precautions to be taken?

We should be in a situation like this, creating demand, creating new requests, looking for new markets to bring guests to hotels and restaurants. But in this pandemic condition, especially now what Emergency PPKM can be created. People just leave the house scared. Especially if you want to make an event at the hotel. Under these conditions, some hotels still survive even though they continue to lose money. But most chose to close their hotel operations. In Bali, many hotels have stopped operating. It is the same in Jakarta, as well as other big cities throughout Indonesia. Temporarily closing is a rational choice when there are no guests operating.

All of the PHRI friends have done the efficiency to lay off employees, but the situation is indeed very difficult. Even though the efficiency has been done it doesn't help either. The hotelier is like a prisoner about to face a firing squad. We hope that this pandemic will end, vaccination will be completed and herd immunity will be established. And after that the situation slowly returned to normal. That's what we all hope for.

If we compare between 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic with 2021 there is an Emergency PPKM, what will it look like?

If you want to compare it to 2020, the situation is a little better than 2021. The problem is that at the beginning of 2020 in January and February, things were still normal, there was no corona pandemic in Indonesia. But after that for March until the end of 2020 Indonesia was hit by a pandemic, a sharp decline occurred.

Actually, in early 2021, we hope that the situation will slope down and return to normal. But what happened the situation only got worse. The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 is increasing along with the more intensive searches carried out by the government and various parties. Because the condition is increasingly worrying, the government implements Emergency PPKM. In this Emergency PPKM period, the situation is getting more difficult. Hotel guests who had been declining, are decreasing.

The government is boosting vaccination, I think this is a realistic step that can be done. Learning from the experience of America and several European countries that massively vaccinate their citizens, it turns out that there are results. Now, we must support this program so that everything can decline slowly and COVID-19 cases can be sloping.

Several vaccine-producing countries have provided vaccine assistance to Indonesia, such as America, Australia and Japan. We hope that according to the plan, vaccination can be evenly distributed to all residents.

How big is the number of layoffs in the PHRI environment?

For the hotel sector, the percentage of layoffs is 50 percent. This difficult situation leaves hoteliers with no choice. They cannot extend the work contract or lay off employees. This is very, very forced to do because hotel revenues have decreased dramatically during this corona pandemic.

If the occupancy is only one digit, it is not enough to cover operational costs such as electricity, employee salaries and so on. A realistic step that can be taken is to reduce employees in addition to being efficient in other fields.

The restaurant sector has also suffered a similar hit. Restaurant entrepreneurs also suffered a serious blow. However, the conditions are slightly better than the hoteliers. Regarding the restaurant, there are still online food sales which tend to still exist during this pandemic. But the issue of layoffs also occurs in the restaurant sector, yes if the percentage is 30 to 40 percent.

How much is the latest data on hotels that are closed due to the corona pandemic?

I can't provide the latest data about hotels and restaurants that are closed, later when we have the data we will inform you. The latest data in May 2020 the number of hotels that were closed was more than 2,100 hotels. But now many have reopened even though they are operating at a loss.

In a condition like this, how optimistic are the PHRI friends to get through this pandemic and Emergency PPKM?

Actually, if I'm not mistaken, this has been applied for the umpteenth time, only the terms have changed. There used to be PSBB, there was also PPKM Micro, now PPKM is Emergency. In fact, we once again have to learn from America, which was previously the champion in the number of citizens exposed to COVID-19, its government carried out comprehensive vaccinations for all citizens. And it has results. Society and all elements of the nation must support this vaccination program.

Actually we have collaborated with travel agencies, airlines to sell bandling tickets with hotel rooms. But all that stopped first with the PPKM Emergency. There is also learning from Bali. But this also can't be done. Talking about optimism, we must maintain it, but we don't know how long this pandemic will end.

Any tips from you for people who want to stay in hotels nowadays?

If you're on vacation or staying at a hotel at a time like today, there's relatively no problem. Because certain hotels already have CHSE certification, namely Cleanliness, Hygiene, Sanitation, and Environment. If you stay at a hotel that already has a CHSE certificate issued by the government, there is no problem at all. It is safe to stay at hotels that already have a CHSE certificate. There are no specific tips because the hotel is safe.

Now the problem is people can't move. So people can't go anywhere including staying in hotels. We pray that this pandemic will soon pass and we can return to normal when there was no corona pandemic.

It's okay for Hariyadi Sukamdani to not be able to golf on a bicycle
Hariyadi Sukamdani. (Photo: Private Dock, DI: Raga/VOI)

Hariyadi Sukamdani is well aware of the importance of exercise for his health and fitness. Striving with business affairs at the office must be balanced throughout the day with activities that are refreshing. One of those activities is sports and occasionally enjoy music and watch action movies or dramas.

Before the corona pandemic hit, this alumnus of Civil Engineering, Sebelas Maret State University, Surakarta (1989) liked golf and sports in the fitness center (gym) as his favorite sports. But the pandemic changed everything. He can't be a man doing his favorite sport with his colleagues. "Because of the corona pandemic, the golf that I do regularly has to stop first. Likewise with the gym which I also do regularly,” he said.

What is clear, he continued, is that sports cannot be stopped despite the pandemic. “Precisely during this pandemic, we must be diligent in exercising to increase body immunity. It's just that the sports that are carried out should not be in crowds and interact with many people," said this alumnus of Megister Management and Doctoral Degree in Strategic Management at the University of Indonesia.

Hariyadi Sukamdani. (Photo: Private Dock, DI: Raga/VOI)

So what sport did the General Chairperson of the Indonesian Employers Association (APINDO) do during the corona pandemic? “As long as I can't golf and the gym, I replace it with cycling and exercise at home. Anyway, there must be sports. The gym is also not recommended during the corona pandemic, it's in a closed room. That's why I choose sports that are in open spaces such as bicycles and also exercise in the yard," he explained.

In exercising, Hariyadi doesn't want to be pushy or push himself. At his age he had to be careful. Don't let exercise actually make it hurt. “When I ride my bike, I'm not the type to have to cover a distance of tens of kilometers or a certain target. I was not far away just around the house just bike. My mileage at most about 15 km is enough. The important thing is that we can move and sweat. The body becomes healthy and fit," said the Chair of the Visit Wonderful Indonesia Board.

What about food matters, are there certain dietary restrictions? He started to joke about this. "For food, I have no complaints, I can eat everything from Indonesian food to Western food and other countries. I have no problem with food. I just can't eat bad food, hehehe," he joked.

Hariyadi Sukamdani. (Photo: Private Dock, DI: Raga/VOI)

However, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is more inclined to Indonesian cuisine which is actually fresher because it is grown and cultivated in Indonesia. Instead of having to eat food from foreign countries that take a long time to arrive in Indonesia. “For now I prefer local cuisine, Indonesian cuisine in general. Because in my opinion it is much fresher than food that must be imported from abroad,” continued the Commissioner of PT. Jurnalindo Aksara Graphics (Bisnis Indonesia Group).

In terms of art, Hariyadi honestly admits that he has no talent. He's just a connoisseur of art. Music and film are the two arts that he enjoys the most. “For art frankly I have no talent at all. At least I'm just an art connoisseur. My hobby is actually in the world of photography. But now during this pandemic, we have to postpone the photography business,” I am a man who likes relaxing music.

In addition, occasionally when there is an opportunity, Hariyadi Sukamdani takes the time to watch his favorite action film or occasionally a drama genre film. “When I watch a film, I don't want to bother thinking about the manufacturing process and other very complicated techniques. Anyway, as an art connoisseur, I can watch and appreciate films as a collective work of art that involves many people in it,” he explained.

“The hotelier is like a prisoner who will face a firing squad. We hope that this pandemic will end, vaccination will be completed and herd immunity will be established. And after that the situation slowly returned to normal. That's what we all hope for."

Hariyadi Sukamdani