STAYCATION packages are just not cutting out as a way for hotels in Penang to stay afloat, said Malaysia Association of Hotels Penang chairman Raj Kumar.
Despite attractive packages to lure local folks to get a dose of some hotel luxury, he said, the market remains largely unmoved and the hotels badly need interstate travel to be allowed again.
“Most hotels came up with staycation packages at really low rates. But as guests are limited to only locals and many hotel facilities cannot be open, the response wasn’t good.
“Only a few on working trips stayed at hotels. We did not get the targeted locals.
“The locals preferred to just stay at home and hotels operated at huge losses just to maintain the staff to stay open, ” said Raj.
Staycation is a portmanteau of the words “stay” and “vacation”, which refers to a practice of having a holiday while remaining in one’s home area.
Raj said the only hope for hotels now is for travellers from other states to be allowed to come and experience Penang.
“Until the ban on interstate travel is lifted, it is going to be a difficult time for us.
“Hotels are struggling to recover daily expenses and keeping people employed.
“Only interstate travel can rescue the industry and we are all keeping our fingers crossed, ” he added.
Last Friday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that travel ban between states and districts may go on until at least 70% of the population is vaccinated against Covid-19.
Dr Noor Hisham said a lesson was learnt from the decision to re-allow interstate travel on Dec 7, which resulted in outbreaks in “green states”.
From today, Penang will be put under the conditional movement control order and inter-district travel will be allowed.
Penang tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said extending interstate travel ban until at least 70% of the population is vaccinated would devastate the tourism industry.
He said the continuous ban for an uncertain amount of time would kill the tourism industry which must now rely on domestic tourism to keep their operations afloat and sustain employment.
“I hope the Federal Government will take into account the severe repercussions of this ban to the tourism industry and those who depend on this industry for a living.
“I hope the Government can do more, either through the extension of a moratorium or provide more targeted subsidies, to sustain the tourism industry while the authorities secure the necessary vaccine supply.
“I don’t think industry players can survive much longer as they are juggling huge operating costs with almost zero revenue.
“This will lead to more closures of tourism businesses and job losses, ” he said.
As for families, mixed feelings are in the air over staycation opportunities as cost and health become the main concern.
Some families are eager to take the opportunity to go for short staycation with their loved one as there are cheaper hotel rooms available now.
Meanwhile, many people interviewed expressed interest to go on staycations, except for one who caught the virus.
Covid-19 survivor Mahathir Mohd Jamal, 41, said he would wait till Malaysia was “free from the pandemic”.
The bank officer from Balik Pulau said he would not jeopardise his family’s health just for the sake of a short vacation.
“I might hold first on holidays.
I know hotels now offer good discounts but it is not for us to enjoy yet, ” he said.
However, Nurisfahanis Hashim, 37, from Kuala Lumpur, said she has been waiting to go to Penang with her husband and three children since early this year to meet friends and relatives.
“The only thing now is the interstate travel ban. Once it is lifted, we will definitely go, ” she said.
Nurisfahanis, who works in the private sector, said there were hotels in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur offering cheap rates but she was worried about the high cases of Covid-19 there.
She said she did book a hotel room last month in Kuala Lumpur but decided to hold it first and wanted to go to Penang instead.
Businessman Fauzi Abd Razak, 43, from George Town, said he planned to take up some of the offers by hotels in Penang and Kedah.
“I planned to spend some weekends in one of those hotels before the fasting month in April, ” he said.
Fauzi said this might be the best time to enjoy a hotel stay before more restrictions are imposed.