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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hotelier: More can be done to promote tourism in the country

The Novotel Hydro Majestic Hotel was sold for RM156mil last year.

The outlook for the local hotel industry is expected to be positive this year after the hospitality industry showed some pick-up in the second half of last year, says Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) senior vice-president Ivo R Nekvapil.

“Barring any bad press with less emphasis on H1N1, the industry can do much better,” he tells StarBizWeek through an-email reply.

He says Malaysia is a great value-for-money destination and that it just needs more international brands toboost the country’spopularity.

“We need more innovative domestic packages and a push for more homestays. We also need plans to open more areas for tourists, like islands and eco resorts as in Sarawak,” he adds.

Malaysia should also cut the red tape where possible and create a “one-stop shop” for tourism like what the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) and the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) are doing for manufacturing, according to Nekvapil.

Tourism is Malaysia’s second highest revenue earner.

“We also need to strongly push the Malaysia My Second Home programme as there is huge potential there,” he says.

On recent news report that Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen has urged hoteliers to review hotel room rates, Nekvapil says 5-star hotel rates must increase as the rates in Malaysia are still the lowest.

“(Rates for five-star hotels) must go up comparable to other hotels in Asia. Then the 2, 3 & 4-star hotels can move up to a more realistic level,” he says.

Integrated provider of serviced offices, hotels and serviced residences company, The Nomad Group Bhd, tells StarBizweek that they are positive about Kuala Lumpur’s serviced residences business.

A spokesperson says the company believes there are plenty of opportunities to achieve high occupancy.

“Although occupancy dropped slightly in November/December of 2009, enquiries for Nomad Residences Bangsar, for example, have since picked up this month,” he says in an email.

He adds that the hotel group’s residents consist of various nationalities such as British, French and Australians.

About 80% of its tenants comprise of international business executives.

“We are not only getting leads from multinational companies but also generating interest from entrepreneurs who are in Kuala Lumpur to set up new businesses. The Nomad also provides them with serviced offices to work in,” he says.

The spokesperson says location is very relevant and Bangsar is definitely still a favourite among both expatriates and Malaysians.

“The variety of food and beverages outlets, shopping centres and specialty shops makeBangsar an attractive choice for many,” he notes.

The Nomad Residences caters to those on short and long stays, making it easy for people who are in transition, relocating or who have been posted to Kuala Lumpur.

“We have also seen improvement in our rates, as more people are demanding for the convenience of full fledge serviced apartments. Even leisure travellers looking to stay in one destination for more than 5 days are opting for the serviced residences type of accommodation,” he says.

Previndran Datuk Singhe ... ‘Interest will be mainly in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu.’

Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Datuk Singhe says the company is expecting investments in hotel properties to pick up this year.

“Interest will be mainly in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu,” he says in an e-mail, noting that the Novotel Hydro Majestic Hotel was sold for RM156mil to a local buyer last year.

“We saw a drop of investments in hospitality assets in 2008 due to lack of foreign buyers but by 2009, we saw the return of investors and the return of foreign sellers,” Previndran says, adding that factors which contribute to higher transactions include growth in the tourism business as well as higher low cost carrier traffic.

“Tourists to Malaysia are still enjoying a much lower cost of spending in hotels. On average, they pay about RM560 for the hotel, compared with RM1,867 in Singapore and RM895 in Bangkok,” he says.

It was reported recently that Malaysia recorded tourist arrivals of 23.5 million in 2009, more than its initial target of 19 million despite a global decline in the industry due to the economic downturn and other challenges.

Previndran, citing a report by Travel & Tourism 2009, says Malaysia has emerged as the fourth most price competitive country in the world out of 133 countries surveyed.

On new trends in hotels and resorts in Malaysia, Previndran notes a rising trend in spa resorts, branded budget accommodation, health tourism and nature tourism.

By The Star (by Edy Sarif)

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