|The horrific tragedy of 26/11 is still fresh in our minds. And outside of the victims and their families, no one is probably suffering more than the hospitality industry. The wine business in India is going to take an obvious hit too. But how much will businesses suffer and how quickly will it bounce back? We asked five of India’s leading wine importers for their opinions.|
Aman Dhall from Brindco
Yes, this is a complete disaster for the sale of fine wines. Taj and Oberoi represent over 50% of Mumbai’s fine wine purchases. Hence, business is bound to suffer.
Dharti Desai from Finewinesnmore
We are all coping with the tragedies that have hit our beloved Bombay. The attack is not just on the foreigners but very clearly on the social and economic progress that India was surely making in the last few years!
FineWinesnMore will be affected by at least 10-15% despite our best efforts to minimize the impact. This tragedy has struck smack in the middle of the busy season and so the entire industry will be affected. I have been hearing from colleagues in the hospitality sector of cancellations of bookings in their hotels. Since close to 70% of our sales are to hotels and fine dines that cater to these foreigners, we will be impacted. It is not just the guests who stay at the hotels who will cancel, but overall people dining out will be lower due to the current mood and this feeling of huge loss and fear will stay with us for a while.
I think the saving factor will be the fact that local consumption is rising steadily, but premium wines will be hit more than the domestic or cheaper imports.
Naresh V. Uttamchandani from Sovereign Impex
I do see a severe downturn in the F&B side for the hotels especially, as sales there are very dependent on foreign tourism at this time of the year. We had all stocked up for good business, but the scenario is extremely negative now. It will take time for people to return to dining at hotels.
Neethu Sheth from The Wine Rack
It is clear that these events have definitely shaken our nation and that all corners of society have been affected. Though we are a resilient nation and have already bounced back by striving to return to our regular routine, I do feel that there is a certain sentiment and period of mourning that we would all like to respect. In light of this, there may be fewer footfalls at major hotels and restaurants, since many would prefer to be at home during this time. This may take a few weeks but I am sure that as a nation we would like to show the rest of the world that we have not been defeated and that we will continue with our lives.
In the immediate aftermath, I do foresee a slight decline purely driven by this solidarity which right now, is quite important. We had seen a general decrease in sales before the tragedy since the economy had slowed and consumers were being more cautious with their disposable incomes. Given that the festive season is upon us, sales should pick up again towards the end of the month with Christmas and New Year. The economic impact that this has had is, of course, yet to be seen on a larger scale and this over the next few months may also have some influence on the number of people dining out and on spending-patterns as a whole.
In general, I do not anticipate a severe change but slight variations will definitely be evident until things return to normalcy. International traffic into India is likely to decrease and this will surely have an impact. We are a great nation and many of us are discovering the joys of fine wine, I am sure that we will continue to do so with renewed spirit.
Vishal Kadakai from The Wine Park
The recent events have shook the Hospitality industry to the core. The impact of this will be seen for several months all across the board. Following the recent attacks several Government agencies in countries which include USA, Australia and Great Britain, have issued travel advisories for India.
India has also been listed now on the Top 20 most dangerous countries to visit. Several hotels in Mumbai are now only allowing guest with a room reservation to enter into the hotel. Guest who used to walk in for coffee or dinner are now being restricted. Wine lists are being downsized, inventories are being controlled. MNC hotels are getting directives from their principals to spend less and decrease their overheads. In this situation DOFs (Director of Finance) are calling the shots. On top of this the world is in recession. Prior to that, the constant changing of the excise policy and the unusually high taxation structure of wines in Mumbai was already making the wine sale suffer.
Imported wines are predominantly sold in the hotels in Mumbai (due to high taxations). 50% of these sales are driven by expats and foreign nationals. So how can we not see a downward spiral of the wine sales? I am not Harry Potter with a magic wand. And if I was, I would have never let the unimaginable and horrible things happen to Mumbai that happened in these past few days.