LIFE goes on for many Malaysian businesses despite the war in Iraq. While there are fewer foreign tourist arrivals, the resorts business is taking it in its stride and is making plans to counter the negative impact.
The Datai Langkawi general manager Jamie Case said it was difficult to project the outlook of the resorts business for 2003 as a great deal depended on the war in Iraq.
If it finishes quickly and there are no further terrorist acts, then business could bounce back quite quickly, Case said, adding that the Datai hoped to achieve the same occupancy in 2003 as last year, which was about 70%.
Case said the resorts business in 2002 was affected by the events of Sept 11 and improvements were seen only by the middle of the year before receiving another setback as a result of the tragedy in Bali.
He said 2003 had been a challenging year so far as overseas arrivals had decreased from the previous year due to the impending conflict in the Middle East plus travel advisories issued by foreign offices in Europe and North America.
He expects the resort to finish with a 60% occupancy rate for this month
People are delaying travel as they prefer not to be overseas during the outbreak of hostilities and this would affect the resorts business, he said, adding that more terrorist acts as a repercussion of the war would also affect tourism worldwide.
Case said the resorts key markets were Britain, Europe and Japan, while Malaysian residents made up only 5% of its business.
As business from our key markets has declined, we are concentrating efforts on increasing the market share from Asia (particularly Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong) plus developing new markets in South Korea, Russia and the Middle East, he said.
Case said the resort was also offering special promotional rates in both Malaysia and Singapore as a strategy to attract more guests from those markets.
He added, however, that rates had not been discounted in the resorts key overseas markets, as the reason for not travelling was fear, not price.
According to Nexus Resort Karambunai sales and marketing group director Andy Teh, the resorts occupancy rate has been consistently increasing by 5% to 10% for the last three years.
Teh said occupancy had also increased slightly in the last three months and business for 2003 was optimistic despite the war. On the other hand, he added that cancellations could still happen.
Bookings from Britain/Europe are still coming in but a bit slower. However, the Malaysian and regional business is very promising, he said, adding that the occupancy rate for the resort had even gone over 70% in March.
Teh said the resort had a healthy geographical mix of guests, with 58% foreign and 42% domestic.
The 58% is from long-haul destinations such as Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, China, Tai- wan, Brunei and other Asean countries.
We will continue to focus on the above primary markets and put in additional focus on new markets such as Russia, the Middle East and India, he said.
On the impact of war on the resorts business, Teh said the long-haul business would definitely slow down, depending on how long the war would last.
As had been the experience over the Sept 11 incident and the Bali bombing, certain markets will take a while to recover. Hence a shift of focus to intra-regional market is a better bet, he said.
However, Teh believes that the recovery time will be short as the tourism industry would continue to be committed with or without war, as too much investment has already been put into the industry.
Threats of terrorism will obviously create uncertainty but there is no stopping travel. The key is to be a smart traveller, he quipped.
With the intra-regional cooperation that has been apparent among Asean, Teh said growth could still be expected in the resort industry.
Quoting an example, he said, Bali had been tapping into its intra-regional market through attractive promotional packages with companies like Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and despite the Bali bombing, MAS flights had been enjoying good loads into Denpasar.
Teh said Nexus Resort Karambunai had remained an attractive resort destination.
We have our very own spa, an 18-hole championship golf course, a 75-acre Nature Park for rainforest tours, a Lagoon Park for river and sea sports and a complimentary array of daily activities for our guests, he said.
Pan Pacific Resort Pangkor Island general manager Paolo E Fill said that with the Iraqi war and the current unhealthy economy, people had been very careful with their money and this would affect the resorts business.
It is uncertain what the aftermath of the war will bring to the world, he said, adding that all parties needed to be extra careful and alert in the event of increased terrorism as one of the repercussions of the war.
Business for 2003, however, has been very positive.
Fill said the number of European guests coming to the resort increased by 8% for the first two months compared to last year. Occupancy for the months of January and February was 66% compared to 62% in the corresponding period last year.
The resorts clientele comes mainly from Asia, Europe and America. According to Fill, the European and Asian markets increased by 10% and 5% respectively for the months of January and February compared to the corresponding months last year.
Our strategy is to target the domestic market, especially for corporate meetings and seminars as well as leisure groups and free individual travel, he said.
Pan Pacific Resort Pangkor Island is now upgrading its guestrooms and food and beverage outlets to meet today's sophisticated travellers.
Fill said the resort's oldest wing, the 106-room Sea Wing, was now being renovated.
The renovation is scheduled to be completed in July and will be launched with a new name, Ocean Wing, he said.
The resort consists of three wings: Sea Wing, Garden Wing and Pacific Wing with a total of 240 guestrooms, chalets and bungalows.
On the outlook for the hotel/resort industry in Malaysia, Fill said it was still very positive as the country had many things to offer which was value-for-money.
The resort has a stretch of 1.2km private beach with fine sand and clear water. One of its attractive features is that guests can arrive at the resorts private jetty and transport will be provided to the resort. The resort is also fully equipped with facilities, including archery facility and mini golf course.
Most importantly, we have excellent weather throughout the year, Fill quipped.
On the recent outbreak of the atypical pneumonia or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in countries like Hong Kong and Singapore, Case said there had been a few cancellations in bookings but felt that it was not a huge cause for concern at the moment.
Teh said SARS would only provide a temporary negative impact as there would certainly be a cure and that no bookings had been cancelled so far but cautioned that tourists might be apprehensive about visiting an area located in the same region.
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