KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian hotel operators are expected to enjoy positive numbers this year after the hospitality industry picked up in the second half of 2009 with a majority of four- and five-star hotels in the Klang Valley seeing occupancy rates hitting 80%.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) senior vice-president Ivo R Nekvapil was upbeat on occupancy numbers which have been on the rise after the A(H1N1) influenza pandemic that gripped the world. He said some hotels and serviced apartments even saw 90% occupancy in the later part of 2009.

“The outlook for next year (this year) is healthy, and barring a recession and re-emergence of the H1N1 influenza, tourist numbers should surpass 2009,” he told The Edge Financial Daily in a telephone interview.
“I am very positive for next year. Malaysia is still economically viable, very competitive and the best value for money compared to Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.”

Nekvapil said the opening of five to six new hotels and serviced apartments like Doubletree by Hilton and Empire Hotel Subang this year would add another 1,200 hotel rooms in and around the Klang Valley.

He said tourist arrivals were strong in the later part of 2009, coinciding with the school holidays in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, and the Malaysia Year End Sale.

“While tourist arrival numbers for December are not out yet, there are indications that this will be a good month,” he said. “The second half of the year turned out very well with no overall negative effects, aside from the H1N1 pandemic. The recession per se did not affect the tourism sector as badly as it did the manufacturing sector.”

According to statistics on the Tourism Malaysia website, December 2008 saw 2.01 million tourist arrivals, with 22.01 million cumulative arrivals for the year. Up until November 2009, the website showed Malaysia saw 21.5 million tourist arrivals.

Nekvapil said while two-thirds of tourist arrivals were from Singapore, the ministry and the private sector had been “pushing the China market” and had seen encouraging results.

“The tourist market from China is not overly high-yield, but the occupancy levels are there and I believe they have exceeded (Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen’s) expectations,” he said, adding that the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) sector had also fared well.

He added that despite increased tourist numbers from China, which rose 25.2% in November 2009 to 94,322 arrivals from 75,342 arrivals in November 2008, the Tourism Ministry and the private hospitality sector “disliked” the overly strong push by some operators on China tourists to spend on shopping.

“We don’t like the exercise of flying the tourists in for cheap and then forcing them to buy,” he said, of the zero-base fare concept, adding that moderation was key. “This is not the way for Malaysia, and not the way to inculcate tourism.”