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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Extreme Equatorial makeover?

Kuala Lumpur: Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur may be torn down under an extreme makeover, reflecting rising competition among hotels as Malaysia's tourism industry grows.

It could also mean that the 38-year-old hotel will be the fourth structure along the busy Jalan Sultan Ismail to be earmarked for rebuilding.

Malaysia wants to triple tourism receipts to RM168 billion in 2020 from last year's figure of RM56.5 billion by attracting 46 per cent more visitors.

Hotel Equatorial will close from April 1 2012.

It is understood that the hotel management had informed its staff a few weeks ago on its plans to temporarily cease operations from March 31 2012.

"We are intending to do a major upgrading exercise that will involve the closure of the hotel," said its general manager Alan Ong.

"The hotel was built and designed for the 1960s and today there is a need to upgrade. (In order) to stay relevant in the business, we have to do the upgrading," Ong said.

Equatorial KL, which opened for business in 1973, was last renovated some eight years ago.

The hotel has a room inventory of 275 and sits on a land covering close to 85,000 sq ft, which according to industry estimates is worth as much as RM250 million.

Hotels have to regularly undergo renovation and refurbishment exercise in order to remain competitive in the market.

Competition is expected to be stiff, with several new hotel openings and extensions announced in the Kuala Lumpur city centre including Grand Hyatt, Impiana KLCC and the Banyan Tree Signatures.

Meanwhile, Ong was unable to say how long the hotel will be closed for upgrading works.

According to sources, it could take up to three years before the hotel will be able to open for business, as there are plans to tear down the building.

Messages left by Business Times at Equatorial KL's corporate office to obtain details on the project were left unreturned.

Nevertheless, a search on the Internet revealed that the owners had submitted and obtained approval as early as last year from Kuala Lumpur City Hall for the proposed makeover.

In February 2011, Business Times quoted Tradewinds Corp Bhd's chairman Tan Sri Megat Najmuddin Megat Khas as saying, "TCB plans to demolish both Komplex Antarabangsa and Crowne Plaza Mutiara Hotel to make way for a new property project".

In September 2011, Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said TCB had been granted a development order for Hotel Istana, which is located at the corner of Jalan Sultan Ismail and Jalan Raja Chulan.

However, as at press time, it is still unclear when these buildings will be demolished.

Hotel Equatorial's website states it is located in three major Asia Pacific countries with seven properties in the group.

In Malaysia, the Equatorial hotels are in Penang, Cameron Highlands, Bangi and Malacca.

The properties abroad are in Shanghai, China and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam.

By Business Times

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