Christmas crunch for hotels

Understaffed: The shortage of hotel workers was compounded by the fact that many foreign workers were sent back when their contracts ended and agencies had trouble bringing in new batches because of international travel restrictions.

GEORGE TOWN: Hotels here are scrambling to recruit workers in anticipation of a massive influx of domestic tourists during the festive period in December.

Several five-star and smaller hotels have started hiring new employees, especially in housekeeping, to handle the Christmas and New Year peak season next month.

Jen Hotel communications manager Ellie Yeoh said the hotel began the hiring exercise as “we are not taking any chances”.

She said the hotel was preparing for a 70% occupancy rate next month, which was the pre-Covid-19 figure.

“We are hoping for a better season compared to last year and this hiring will help us cope with the demand of local tourists.

“Usually, beach hotels will have higher business during the holiday season, but there are many guests who choose town hotels as they want to savour the hawker food and visit heritage enclaves,” she added.

Soon after interstate travel across Malaysia was allowed from Oct 11, it was reported that there was a shortage of workers in Penang’s hospitality sector, so much so that some staffers in the finance, human resources or administration department had to occasionally don the uniforms of housekeepers, bell boys and receptionists.

The shortage was compounded by the fact that many foreign workers were sent back when their contracts ended and agencies had trouble bringing in new batches because of international travel restrictions.

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa communications director Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman said: “We are definitely hiring and wouldn’t want to be caught off-guard like what happened when the ban on interstate travel was first lifted last month.

“We will be more prepared during the holiday season next month.”

He said housekeeping had become tougher and more time-consuming with the stringent standard operating procedure.

“The rooms need to be sanitised and we need more workers for this.

“It is going to be challenging, but there is still more than a month and the hotel will have the necessary people by then,” he said.

Neo+Penang Hotel is also hiring foreign workers on either a six-month or one-year contract to cope with the Yuletide season.

“Foreign workers from certain countries have become choosy,” said its general manager Gulab Mahatam Rai.

“They do not want to come in as casual workers, but are only interested in a minimum six-month contract. We have been running at an 80% occupancy rate during weekends since the interstate travel was allowed,” he said.

“We got to prepare for the long haul.”

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chairman K. Raj Kumar said hotel members were taking a three-pronged approach to tackle the peak season next month.

“Through the Tourism and Culture Ministry, we have requested that the government allow the hiring of new foreign workers,” he said.

“The hotels will also start using casual workers during the peak season. If this does not work, the hotels will have to reduce their inventory by releasing only a percentage of their rooms rather than having an 80 to 90% occupancy rate,” he added.

Raj Kumar said from a business point of view, it would be prudent for hotels to have guests staying for a longer period rather than a one-night stay.

“It is a challenging period for all. The government could help by opening up the hiring of foreign workers for hotels like in other sectors,” he added.

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Christmas , New Year , hotels


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