It would appear that going domestic is the future of travel for the Malaysian hotel scene, or at least that’s how one of the world’s biggest hospitality companies sees it.
Domestic tourists, according to Marriott International, remains the top source market for the international chain’s hotels and resorts in Malaysia. Last year, the market experienced an 8.5% growth in local guests. The rise of domestic guests is further complemented by a significant growth of Chinese, Indian and Filipino tourists.
Marriott International chief operating officer (Asia Pacific, ex China) Rajeev Menon called this the intra-Asia travel phenomenon.
“If we look at markets from across China to India, there is considerable growth in inbound travel,” he offered during a roundtable session at The St Regis Kuala Lumpur recently.
Rajeev, who was in the country to introduce the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty programme, attributed the growth of domestic tourism to the increasing connectivity offered by airlines in the region.
“With low-cost carriers growing and increasing their number of routes, travel has certainly exploded in the region. Asean countries are expected to have 125 million people travelling across borders within the partner countries in the next few years,” he said.
The phenomenon of travelling domestically also correlates with economic growth in the region.
“The reality is that as people accumulate more wealth, their desire to travel increases,” he said. And the growing middle class segment in Asia certainly offers plenty of business opportunity for hospitality companies, Rajeev added.
“In the past, 25% of business might come from the locals – but today, the number has turned around. Local guests can make up to 75% of the business,” he explained.
Strong hospitality growth in Malaysia
When it comes to the hospitality scene in Malaysia, Marriott International area vice president (Singapore, Malaysia, Maldives) Rivero Delgado said the prospects are very optimistic.
According to Delgado, there will be three hotel openings this year with another two new properties in the pipeline for 2020. Currently, Marriott International operates
27 hotels with 8,299 rooms in Malaysia. The new opening scheduled for this year will add another 829 room to the company’s portfolio.
Despite issues such as the shortage of pilots and economic uncertainties, Rajeev said the long-term fundamentals remain strong in Malaysia as well as across the region.
“Anytime there is uncertainty, travel will slow down a bit. But that doesn’t mean it’s a long-term effect. For those of us in the hospitality business, we operate hotels that can stand for hundreds of years and we need to ride through these challenges,” he offered, adding that hospitality companies will need to work closely with government agencies as well as private entities.
Rajeev said Malaysia is poised to tap into the growth of travel thanks to its status as a destination for every traveller. The country is able to cater to family-friendly holidays, adventure seekers, shopaholics and eco-conscious guests.
If anything, the Asean region as a whole is primed for growth. According to analytics company GlobalData, the number of international visitors to Asean countries is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.72% from 129.2 million in 2018 to 155.4 million in 2022.
The Tourism Destination Market Insights: ASEAN report revealed that each country in the region has potential for growth in the next three years as intra-Asean travel increases and travellers from further afield seek more adventurous holidays.
Luxury guests looking for finer experiences
Another notable discussion brought up at the roundtable was the emergence of a new generation of luxury travellers.
This new crop of travellers, according to Marriot International vice president (Luxury, Asia Pacific ex China) Victor Clavell, is driving the rapid growth of luxury brands. And while expectations of travellers in the segment remain high, it is now no longer confined to just room and board.
“There is a shift in the demands of luxury consumers. They want to be able to experience personalised journeys that they would otherwise not be able to experience elsewhere,” he said, adding that travellers are looking out for contextualised experiences.
Some examples of this include a backstage meet-and-greet with a rock star or a conservation initiative where guests would be able to plant coral reefs during their stay.“That said, a luxury guest still expects cleanliness, great amenities and exceptional services. It’s just that hoteliers need to find tailor-made experiences to make their stay even more memorable now,” he added.
Clavell’s input matched that of a global study which revealed that luxury travellers today are travelling not just to discover the world, but also for self-discovery.
In a statement, Marriott International global brand officer Tina Edmundson said luxury hoteliers need to understand that personal significance goes along with the opportunity to indulge.
“Travellers have become active participants in the trips they are taking. Ultimately, global ‘luxurians’ are becoming creators in every aspect of their travel experience.
“For this group, travel is no longer a departure from reality, it is the reality,” she said.
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