Tourists are back, but hotels have new problem

Jobs in the hospitality and tourism industry are not only seen as ‘difficult’, but also uncertain


THE hotel industry is in dire need of manpower in light of the reopening of the country’s borders to international visitors planned for Jan 1 next year.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) CEO Yap Lip Seng said hotels have been rehiring since the reopening of interstate travel, but there seemed to be a lack of interest among the Malaysian public in hotel jobs despite the increased hourly wages.

He added that jobs in the hospitality and tourism industry are not only seen as “difficult”, but also uncertain.

“Former employees are reluctant to return and most have ventured into other industries deemed as more stable like manufacturing. Some even went into the gig economy for more freedom and independence.

“Apart from having to let go of existing employees during the Movement Control Order as hotels could no longer sustain losses from travel restrictions, the public are also reluctant to work in the hotel industry.

“Even banks have classified the industry as a ‘high risk’ industry,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

Yap said in the current situation, hotels are forced to offer high parttime or temporary contract rates to secure manpower for fluctuations in business.

He noted that although there is an increase in bookings due to pent-up demand and holiday periods, hotel businesses are still not stable as of now.

Despite hotel bookings picking up by domestic travellers, Yap said they are still considered low with the absence of international tourists.

As such, the association had sought support from the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and to explore possible solutions for the immediate need of the industry to support economic recovery.

Among the issues that were discussed included the rebuilding of confidence and assurance for the industry, as well as the recreation of image for the tourism and hospitality industry to encourage more jobseekers.

The association also requested the government to make a clear public statement towards a full reopening of tourism including international borders moving forward, and that there should be little to no worry of another travel ban.

Additionally, MAH also spoke about educating consumers on efforts by the hotel industry to ensure standard operating procedures (SOPs) compliance as well as ensuring hygiene and safety of guests that may cause a delay in service.

“Hotels at the same time are committed to ensuring rooms are cleaned and disinfected thoroughly, and this adds on to not only cost of operations but also time to clean the rooms.

“Hotels, as seen in many cases, had redeployed back-office staff and executives to cleaning jobs to cope with the fluctuation of demands and business,” Yap noted, adding that the hotel industry is positive and ready for the reopening to international arrivals.

However, he said it is important that the government make clear SOPs, which are defined towards full reopening, as the industry cannot risk any more closures.

Malaysia is expected to reopen its borders to international visitors by Jan 1 at the latest, to revive the ailing tourism and hospitality sector.

National Recovery Council chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin noted that the tourism industry was recovering too slowly without foreign arrivals and the tour operators need time to resume their businesses.

Muhyiddin, however, did not specify an exact date for when the reopening will be announced but said the decision is still being analysed by health and safety authorities.

He said infection control measures such as Covid-19 tests and SOPs will remain in place, with authorities to determine entry based on the status of Covid-19 in originating countries and other factors.