THE influx of tourists during the year-end holidays has been a boon to hotels in Penang, with many reporting good occupancy rates.
Local travellers, as well as those from neighbouring countries and booming markets like China and Europe make up the bulk of numbers.
Hotel Equatorial Penang, which has the most rooms for a single property in the state at 662, saw occupancy rise to between 80% and 90% earlier this month.
Its assistant marketing communications manager Gillian Tan said December is normally a peak period with increased numbers of holidaymakers.
“This year, we noticed a sizeable number of locals from the central region.
Tourists (in purple) admiring the architecture of Masjid Kapitan Keling.
“We also had many big tour and conference groups throughout the year, while numbers of international corporate travellers from America, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Italy are also picking up," she said.
Sister properties G Hotel Gurney and G Hotel Kelawai recorded a combined average occupancy rate of over 90% for its total 520 rooms, according to communications director Christina Tan.
She said the hotels had been averaging 85% throughout the year, with a large portion being corporate travellers.
The surge in December is typical, said Christina, as leisure travellers come in for the year-end holidays.
“In fact, we were fully booked for five days, including the recent Christmas weekend,” she said, adding that many were from Singapore and America.
The 232-room Eastern and Oriental (E&O) Hotel had an average occupancy rate of 87% in December, though the numbers have been steady throughout the year.
E&O Group hospitality and lifestyle director Michael Saxon said a large percentage of their guests were Australians, Britons and local Malaysians.
Tourists exploring George Town on trishaw.
“Domestic tourism improved this year, as the weakening Ringgit made a stay home vacation more attractive. The mainland Chinese market is also growing and shows huge potential.
“Malaysia, and in particular Penang, is also a favoured destination among Europeans as it is affordable and safe, besides having wonderful weather, people and food,” Saxon said.
Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang Chapter chairman Khoo Boo Lim said its 80-plus members recorded steady occupancy rates averaging a little over 60% until November.
This translates to an average increment of 4.23% compared with that of 2016, with the highest being in May, June and October with rises of 7.37%, 7.33% and 6.64% respectively.
State Tourism Development committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang said the upturn was also seen at the Penang International Airport.
He said a total of 5,342,089 arrivals were recorded between January and September this year, a rise of 8.67% compared to the same period in 2016.
By end of December, the figure is expected to top out at an estimated 7,100,000 arrivals, compared to 6,700,000 for the whole of 2016.
“Hospital statistics also show a total of 187,376 foreign patients, which brought in revenue of RM259.3mil in the first six months of this year, compared to 175,216 patients and revenue of RM131.7mil the same period last year.
“Cruise calls to Swettenham Pier are also rising. We've had 125 calls up to September this year, with more coming in now as Westerners escape the winter season.
“The final number for 2017 is set to exceed the 136 total calls we had for 2016, putting Penang top in Malaysia.
“By comparison, Port Klang had only 78 cruise calls as of September,” Law said in a press conference at Komtar yesterday.