Tourism Malaysia – Make room for tourists on a shoestring budget

Hotel in Chilua Street

Tourism Malaysia – Make room for tourists on a shoestring budget

THE word is out. The place to be — for sun-sand-sea-beach-loving enthusiasts, foodies or those stuck in the nostalgia of old-world colonial charm — is the island of Penang. Tourists are coming in droves to check out what this tiny island has to offer and its people are gearing up to embrace the economic benefits that will enrich them in the coming years.

The hotel industry will be the best business to be in here as its clientele does not depend on “seasons” compared with the industry in Kuala Lumpur. Every day is an “Arab, Europe, Thai or Singaporean season” for the hotels in Penang. Some are even fully booked until next year.

Upon realising the mammoth tourism potential in the state, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen has said that the island required the support of the hotel industry to be turned into a tourism hub. The hospitality industry had foreseen this coming as nine hotels are being built on the island, with the first one to be ready by 2015.

Dr Ng had said to compete with other tourism-centric states such as Malacca and Johor, 9,000 five-star hotel rooms are needed by 2020, with a target of 36 million tourist arrivals. While some in the hotel industry concur with the need for more five-star hotels, there are others who say that there are enough rooms already.

Some who are involved in the hospitality and tourism business say that the target may be a bit too ambitious and on the wrong track as the real need is for more four-star hotels on the island. It was reported that Penang has more than 13,000 hotel rooms, with 5,368 in George Town, 2,417 along the popular Batu Ferringhi beach area and 1,077 in Tanjung Bungah, among others.

Industry experts believe that at least half of the tourists are drawn to Penang as it offers relatively cheap accommodation, besides other attractions. They also said there is a sizeable number of tourists who are backpackers who don’t need five-star accommodation, seeking instead for affordable boutique hotels like the ones found in George Town.

So the question is, how many tourists would fork out RM300 to RM500 a night for a night’s stay at a five-star hotel in Penang? There are some hotels at Batu Ferringhi that are charging even more and, believe it or not, they are enjoying full occupancy daily, with rooms booked months ahead. While some hotels in town and in the southern areas have rooms aplenty. They are grumbling that there is “no business” for them.

With the increase in the number of five-star hotels in Penang, most tourists, especially Malaysians from other states, would find it hard to stay and help the economy to prosper. Is there a real need for luxury hotels at a time when the people of Penang are already plagued with the lack of affordable homes, traffic jams and a plethora of other problems?

Perhaps it is time the authorities came out and walked around Lebuh Chulia, where hostels, bed and breakfast, inns and backpackers lodges thrive. In anticipation of Visit Malaysia Year 2014, government agencies must come together to ensure that tourists get decent accommodation at a decent price, rather than purely focusing on the well-heeled folk alone. The budget hotel rooms must be clean and hygienic or the image of the Pearl of the Orient will be tarnished.

Source: NewsBCC / New Straits Times – http://www.newsbcc.com/Malaysia/Business/Make_room_for_tourists_on_a_shoestring_budget/419117/

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