FOR the hospitality industry to survive, tourism must be revived, with standard operating procedures (SOPs) and clear mechanisms in place.
Reducing fixed costs, restructuring the workforce and multitasking staff are some of the survival strategies.
While setting up their pricing structure to tap into the domestic market, hotels are also focusing their promotions on groups planning meetings and social events, with a SOP-compliant setup.
“The tourism industry can be improved and strengthened along the way, but the government must not back down on reopening the sector.
“Better revenue management, in addition to productivity-based costs, will guide the industry through the recovery,” said Malaysian Hotel Association CEO Yap Lip Seng.
The industry must also plan ahead to rebuild its talent and workforce and be ready for a highly competitive market.
The government should map the recovery for the opening of interstate and international borders, for example within ASEAN and China.
Talks with foreign counterparts are expected to begin, with industry being kept informed.
“So we can channel our marketing efforts accordingly,” said a member of the Malaysian Hotel Owners Association (MAHO).
“Earn public trust with clear messages around strong and consistent SOPs; Start a Vacation Home Campaign and capitalize on fatigue by staying home with engaging, safe and novel dining experiences, ”said another MAHO member.
To focus on the domestic and family markets, some hotels are embarking on a rebranding and modernization exercise to respond to different markets such as the working holiday segment.
The infection rate following travel should be monitored and, if necessary, Covid-19 testing should be required even for those fully vaccinated before hotel check-in.
Vaccination should also be mandatory for hospitality industry workers while communication on Covid-19 should be streamlined through a single agency.
“It will be a reset and overhaul of hotel service delivery and engagement; vaccination status, not only for guests but also for hotel staff, will be of great concern to guests, ” said Hanley Chew, founder of online hotel reservation platform JustTonite.
Substantial investments have been made in ultraviolet-C (UV-C) air disinfection units in public spaces – air conditioning systems, inside elevators and rooms, reported a member of MAHO.
UV-C lamps are placed in each room for disinfection before the next guest arrives.
“With the experience of this Covid-19 pandemic, hotels will continue to review existing SOPs; future investments and expenditures will also take into account a possible recurrence of this pandemic, ”said Kevin Cheah, general manager of Iconic Hotel Penang.
In view of the losses over the past 18 months, MAHO members have asked:
> Exemptions and discounts on water, hotel and brewery licenses as well as copyright protection for live bands and music authors.
> An exemption from the digital tax of 6% on the total commissions invoiced by online travel agencies (OTA); OTA service tax payable by OTAs themselves and not directly deducted from hotel payments; the government to monitor the maximum percentage of commissions for OTAs.
> Reductions on electricity for 2022.
> A 50% discount on the hotel assessment and leave the rent for the next two years.
> The levy on the Human Resources Development Fund will be eliminated for the next two years.
> Property tax of RM 2 per room and night (collected on behalf of the Melaka State government) to be abolished for the next two years.
> Continuation of the wage subsidy program for 2022, as not all hotels are expected to break even in the near future.
> Only locals should be hired for positions at all levels until 2024.
> For rehiring companies, 50% of wages to be paid by government up to department head level, with a maximum of RM 2,500 to be paid by government for each rehired employee.
> The exemption from service charges should be extended.
“We are hoping for a one-time subsidy for hoteliers to resume their activities; a 30-50% discount on utilities and a 50% discount or exemption from rent payment and assessment, ”said Emmy Suraya Hussein, president of the Malaysia Budget and Business Hotel Association.
To encourage local tourism, a personal tax allowance of RM 1,000 should be given for tourism spending for 2022, as well as a subsidy for locals to stay in registered hotels.
Another suggestion was a discount of RM 5,000 on personal income tax via individual hotel packages in Malaysia, including the purchase of local airline tickets.
Properly timed and organized roadshows should be conducted in key markets to promote Malaysia; international and charter flights must be provided to Langkawi.
Government sectors should be encouraged to organize events in hotels; free Covid-19 tests are expected to be distributed with government agencies and government-related businesses encouraged to hold functions or meetings in Langkawi.
As hotels face their losses and put SOPs and other requirements in place, we need to support them more and help them get through this difficult time.
While we also place reasonable demands on additional items in packages, hotels should offer affordable prices given the overall reduced revenues.
Yap Leng Kuen is a former StarBiz editor. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.