Hoteliers hopeful of more tourists to Penang in second quarter

Allure of art: Some of the tourists from Japan taking photos near a mural at Step By Step Lane near Gat Lebuh Chulia in George Town. — K.T.GOH/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Hoteliers here have their sights set on the second quarter with a series of promotional activities following the slow uptake in the Golden Week lucrative travel season.

Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa and Golden Sands Resort has invited social media influencers from China to promote Penang as a destination.

“We have properties in China and have been working with their sales and marketing team to promote Penang as a destination to increase our visibility as a state.

“On our side, we are translating our pamphlets, directories and menus to Chinese to make their stay here more comfortable,” said the resort’s communications director, Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Suleiman said there had been a slight spike in tourists from China and Japan, although the numbers were not like the pre-Covid-19 rush.

He said there are still restrictions in China.

“We have seen the launch of daily direct flights in March between China and Malaysia and we have seen an increase in Chinese travellers to our property. The increase is not as high as expected, but we foresee that it will go up in the second quarter.

“It has been much better and we expect it to continue increasing,” he said.

On labour shortage, Suleiman said they still need more staffers but it is no longer as dire as last year.

Flamingo Hotel by the Beach general manager Ong Hai Leong said more Japanese tourists had flown in since last month.

“There are also bookings for the ‘Golden Week’ but the figures are not as good as previous years. We have tourists from China but more needs to be done to push up the numbers.

“This is probably due to certain issues like less frequent flights to Penang. We know that they want to come back to Penang.

“We offer curated campaigns for guests from different countries. We have different promotional campaigns for different countries.

“Some get a complimentary extra night’s stay. Some get an upgrade to a seaview room.

“For our guests from China and Japan who travel in groups, we give them complimentary rooms,” he said.

Ong said the hotel is still having trouble hiring workers for its operations.

“We still need staffers for housekeeping, food and beverage and the front desk. These are departments where we cannot replace them with foreign workers,” he added.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) national vice-president Datuk Khoo Boo Lim said one of the challenges in getting Chinese tourists is due to the reduced number of flights from China to Penang.

“It has resumed but it is not as many as pre-pandemic. We will probably not experience the old rush but there will definitely be an increase in hotel occupancy.

“There is no actual spike of visitors from China and Japan yet, although we see a gradual pick-up. This is probably due to insufficient direct flights,” he said.

On labour shortage, Khoo said it has more to do with local labour.

“We would prefer to use locals, especially when it comes to manning the front desk, and waiters as well where they are dealing directly with guests.

“With foreign workers, there is a language barrier. It is just that now it is a challenge to get locals as they have looked for work elsewhere,” he added.

Khoo said that for now, hotels have outsourced security and cleaning services due to manpower shortage.

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