Hotels tread with caution

THE surge in Covid-19 cases in recent times has put a number of hotels on tenterhooks.


When restrictions were eased after a series of lockdowns, the hotel industry seemed to be spluttering back to life.


The occupancy rates at most Penang hotels went up, thanks to the influx of domestic tourists.


A hotel staff member cleaning up a room at the M Summit 191 Executive Hotel Suites.


The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit since the Covid-19 pandemic began over two years ago.


There are talks of reopening international borders but with the rise in cases throughout Malaysia, the scenario may change.


Several hotel operators, whom Buletin Mutiara approached today for their comments, are now keeping their fingers crossed that the situation will not go out of control.


Below are their views.


Tony Goh, general manager of The Wembley, Penang and Cititel Express, Penang


Our hotel business is badly hit with this Omicron virus spreading rapidly everywhere. We have over 400 rooms and our best record during Chinese New Year period was on the third day with 37 per cent occupancy rate (155 rooms).


Goh says The Wembley ensures SOPs are strictly adhered to by staff and guests.

But after CNY, the occupancy rate has fallen to 20 per cent. We have to face room cancellations or event cancellations.


There’s no point doing any promotion work because this is not a rate issue. This is a market situation. Whatever promotion you do, it won’t work.


On top of that, the operating cost is very high.


The practical thing that we are doing is to ensure that our staff and guests’ safety is not compromised.


It’s beyond our control if the staff members contract the virus outside, but when they are in the hotel, they have to strictly observe all SOPs to reduce the chances of a workplace cluster. Right now, there are a lot of family clusters.


For instance, our staff members have to wear face masks, practise physical distancing and eat alone per table. They are also not allowed to move between departments.


After one and a half years, it has now become a culture for them.


You are duty bound to follow the SOPs. If you can help reduce a case, you are doing a service to the country.


We also sanitise our rooms, public places and also at the back of the house for guests’ safety and protection.


If the international border is reopened, there may be some additional business. Every country is suffering, but I don’t think there will be a lot of visitors due to the inconvenience and extra cost incurred in testing.


Visitors will take into consideration the cost of the tests that will be significantly high when added to the whole tour package.


Moh Wei Ken, general manager of M Summit 191 Executive Hotel Suites


Moh: We have taken extra measures by sanitising all the common areas and hotel rooms frequently,

Since the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases, we have faced 5% cancellations on our bookings after the Chinese New Year period.


However, we want to assure our guests that our hotel does not compromise on the safety and health of its staff and guests.


Apart from observing the government’s SOP, we have taken extra measures by sanitising all the common areas and hotel rooms frequently.


Our automated car park also enables less interaction and risk of exposure as guests only need to drive to a platform at our ground floor and the cars will park themselves.


M Summit 191 Executive Hotel Suites has an automated car park.


We’re happy to record 100% occupancy rate during the first seven days of the Chinese New Year.


With the school holidays around the corner, we are currently planning our Stay and Play package which is a collaboration with The Top Penang.


It is perfect for families as it includes a hotel stay, meals and theme park pass for four pax. Stay tuned for more information via our Facebook page.


Ben Ho, general manager of Lexis Suites Penang Hotel


Ho says his hotel’s business is affected by the current Covid-19 situation.


The hotel’s occupancy rate is currently affected because of the worsening pandemic situation. Compared with the previous 70% occupancy rate during the Lunar New Year period, the current weekday occupancy rate is about 30% to 40%, and the weekend occupancy rate is only 20%.


The biggest impact is on bookings for meetings, trainings, banquets, events, etc. Some customers have postponed their bookings and others have cancelled theirs.


Despite the three-week school holidays starting from this weekend, I believe many people are choosing to stay at home and not to travel. The hotel has so far not seen demand for room bookings picking up.


Although the hotel does not have special school holiday packages to attract visitors, they are welcome to book on the official website to enjoy the best prices.


Gulab Mahatam Rai, general manager of Neo +




Gulab: We plan to tie up with partners to provide special deals for our guests.

We started the year fairly good with approximately 60% occupancy. The first week of Chinese New Year, we did extremely well, logging in 90% occupancy of 196 rooms.


Now, we have about 15% occupancy rate during weekdays and 41% during weekends.


We plan to tie up with partners and local travel agents to provide special deals with attraction in the city for guests.



Story by K.H. Ong

Pix by Christopher Tan and courtesy of interviewees