HOTELS in central Sydney were making operating losses, according to a survey of 17 leading establishments in The Weekend Australian. The poll, by consultants Ernst and Young, found that 37.2 per cent of owners admitted to the losses. However, more than 90 per cent expected business to improve in the short term. About 56 per cent of respondents expected to break even on operating costs in the next two years and 18.7 per cent expected an operating profit before debt servicing. However, 25 per cent expected the losses to continue in the short term. The hotels expected a 4.8 per cent rise in staff numbers in the next two years, as long as the Federal Government's fringe benefits tax on business travel was not imposed.