Hotels in ‘wait and see’ mode

MAH says tourism marketing needs to be a more concerted effort with both private and public sectors working together with the govt to promote Malaysia


WHILE many businesses are slowly re-opening and rebooting as more restrictions are eased as outlined by the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), many hotels have remained shut as hoteliers opt for “wait and see” strategy to cut losses during the Covid-19 pandemic period.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) CEO Yap Lip Seng said it is also too early to see any changes in hotel brands, particularly those that closed down permanently due to the pandemic.

Since any change in management or brand is a complicated process, Yap said owners and management of the hotels would likely wait for the right time to reopen.

“Those already with renovation plans before this, might take advantage of the situation to execute it earlier.

“I think tourism marketing from now onward needs to be a more concerted effort, with both public and private sectors joining hands, offering their individual expertise to collaborate with the government to promote Malaysia,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Recent surveys conducted by the association revealed that 50% of the hotels that responded are considering ceasing operations, while 35% of hoteliers said they would temporary halt their businesses.

On May 14, Emperor Hotel Malacca announced it would be closing down, but did not specify a date.

Last month, Ramada Plaza Melaka Hotel, which has been in business for almost 40 years, was reported to be closing down too.

G City Club Hotel Sdn Bhd, which managed a 180-room hotel under the trade name of GTower Hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur (KL), also shut down its hotel operations after a decade in business, due to the drastic drop in its occupancy rate.

Parkroyal KL is offering a voluntary separation scheme (VSS) to all its employees as the luxury hotel will be closed for 15 months for renovation. EQ (formerly Hotel Equatorial KL), which reopened its doors last year after a RM1 billion redevelopment exercise, is also undertaking a VSS.

Among others, Hilton KL has implemented pay cuts and offered employees a retention programme following MCO due to the pandemic.

Some hotel operators, however, believe there are significant opportunities for recovery growth and are looking at investing more into technology systems to ensure lesser contact with guests.

AnCasa Hotels & Resorts, an UDA Holdings Bhd hotel chain, senior VP Shah Azam Khan said following the Covid-19 outbreak, social distancing has become a new norm with various precautionary measures that must be adhered to.

“We are also focusing on digital marketing/social media marketing, which irrefutably is now the new norm for sales and marketing.

“Besides primarily focusing on food and beverage (F&B), we are looking at commercialising some of our F&B products in the near future,” he told TMR.

Experts are also of the opinion that resorts will recover sooner than city hotels, with the online travel agency (OTA) sector seeing some movement compared to other market sectors.

“We are also advocating that local tourism is the way to go in the next 12-18 months, while promoting a ‘carefree’ holiday refraining from crowded places.

“Our Ancasa Royale Pekan in Pahang is a perfect example,” Shah Azam said.

He added that it’s time for the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) to come up with a mechanism on “star-based” bracket pricing so that there is no price war or throwing of rates and “killing” each other in the industry.

“As such, hotels will be able to monitor their cost effectively. The exercise of ‘bringing down the rates’ will just further tarnish the industry.

“Everyone needs to survive, but remain steadfast in our ethics for the betterment of the industry.”

He also suggested a RM1,000 tax incentive or rebate for Malaysians to use for accommodation or F&B in local hotels.

“Reflect this in the 2021 tax submission as this initiative will further boost the local tourism industry. MOTAC with MAH members should also join hands and come up with its own OTA channel to promote Malaysian hotels in particular, allowing lower commission to be charged for every booking,” Shah Aznam said.

Dorsett Hospitality International (DHI), one of Asia’s fastest-growing hotel groups, is taking the lead by reopening its doors in accordance with the CMCO effective May 4.

“Hotels now can accept reservations, rooms can be occupied, but we have to comply with stringent health and safety measures,” Dorsett Grand Subang area GM Christina Toh said.

She said facilities like meeting rooms, buffet offerings, spa, gym and pool, which are located within the hotel premises, are not allowed to operate.

Toh suggested that any tourism-related initiative be domestically focused. As for the regional market, the business could leverage on the positive news of Malaysia being a safe haven as the Ministry of Health’s efforts in combating Covid-19 have yielded positive results so far.

“We can also look at focusing on regional tourism within Asean destinations to kickstart with and work hand-in-hand with airlines to conceptualise more vibrant packages and promotional offers to promote regional travel.

“The outlook does not look positive in the short to medium term, but we remain positive,” Toh told TMR.

Dorsett Grand Subang, one of the many designated quarantine hotels during the crisis, was officially reopened on May 17.

As far as filling up the rooms, Dorsett Grand Subang have in place its #BookwithConfidence campaign, which allows guests to book with confidence. Should their travel be interrupted due to further restrictions, cancellation is free up to one day prior to arrival.

“To cater to the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions market, we have worked out a ‘Book Now, Meet Tomorrow’ package priced at RM150 nett per person inclusive of welcome coffee, two tea breaks and packed lunch for a full day meeting, with half day priced at RM130 nett per person,” Toh explained.

Other DHI hotels are Dorsett Putrajaya, Dorsett Hartamas and Dorsett KL. Each hotel has come up with similar post-Covid-19 room and meeting offers to drive both domestic and regional markets, while adopting stringent health and safety precautionary initiatives.

For example, Dorsett Hartamas reopened their doors on May 4 with a “Book Today For Tomorrow” package offering 22% off for all direct bookings via its website, valid till July 31, 2020.

Dorsett KL reopened on May 4 with a Sweet Home KL package with 29% off its best available rates for all direct bookings inclusive of extra perks and free cancellation, while Dorsett Putrajaya reopened over the weekend with a room rate as low as RM160 nett per night.