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After two years, Malaysia’s international borders are finally reopening on April 1, much to the delight of the tourism industry.

Seeing as accommodation plays a central role in tourism, hotels will no doubt be seeing an influx of visitors very soon. Thus, Vulcan Post reached out to some hotels to learn about their expectations and how they’re gearing up for the anticipated crowd.

Setting expectations

Hotels under the Marriott brand are typically recognisable names for international jet setters. As such, they often get plenty of guests from abroad.

The Westin Kuala Lumpur had an average of 70% international tourists in 2018 and 2019. Similarly, at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, over 80% of guests were international travellers prior to the pandemic, and Michael Delargy, its general manager is hopeful that they’ll see a gradual increase in such guests once borders reopen.

Rivero Delgado, Marriott International’s area vice president in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Maldives, added, “We have seen how the implementation of vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) routes bring tourists and business travellers to our hotels. This gives us ongoing confidence that as border restrictions continue to ease, travel will rebound too.“

The Westin KL’s general manager, Gregory Gubiani, said it’s too early to gauge the volume anticipated despite the hotel’s increase in Singaporean travellers since the VTL implementation.

“Though we see demand, the next few months will be key to understanding the volume from borders reopening,” Gregory explained.

On the other hand, hotels away from the capital such as Mangala Resort & Spa in Pahang don’t really rely on tourists from abroad, even before the pandemic.

Mangala Resort & Spa is located in Kuantan, Pahang

Gizelle Chua, the resort’s executive director reported that prior to the closing of the borders, only 10 to 20% of guests were international tourists. Even so, they will be preparing to welcome foreign guests from April onwards. After all, they’ve already received bookings from Singapore, India, and the UK.

But for newer hotels that popped up during the pandemic, dealing with large groups of international tourists is a first. 90% of the guests at Capri by Fraser, Bukit Bintang (Capri), which opened its doors in December last year, are domestic. Still, it foresees international tourists from short and mid-haul destinations to be coming in.

“For long-haul destinations, this would probably only be during the later part of the year,” said Joeanne Low, director of sales and marketing at Capri. “We do have requests for leisure groups coming in from April 2022 onward, so this is a good sign.”

Continuing with SOPs

Just because travel restrictions are lifted doesn’t mean the other standards of procedures are too.

On top of keeping up with Marriott’s Commitment to Clean, Le Méridien aims to provide a safe environment that aligns with international and domestic protocols.

“In addition to that, we are also hiring more operations team members to support the increase in occupancy when the borders re-open,” Michael said. “This is to ensure that the hospitality offered at our 5-star hotel is consistent with pre-pandemic levels.”

At the moment, Mangala Resort & Spa has suspended its turndown service in guest villas. The team is also taking a gradual approach in increasing the occupancy to ensure business and operational sustainability.

“With the new norm, we have revised our existing packages such as social events and weddings to cater to a smaller number of attendees with social distancing,” Gizelle shared.

Over at Capri, hygiene standards are practised in accordance with Bureau Vertias Malaysia’s guidelines.

Adding new offerings

In anticipation of more guests, many of the hotels have taken the liberty to introduce new features. For instance, Le Méridien has a new event space at its Italian restaurant, Favola.

“This is a perfect place to hold a cocktail event, intimate wedding, or even organise a creative meeting,” Michael listed.

The Le Méridien Club Lounge has also been re-opened, and the operation hours of the hotel’s F&B venues have been extended too.

Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur’s Club Lounge is open to Club guests staying at the hotel / Image Credit: Le Meridien

Special room packages are also being offered. This includes the Fun-mily Staycation Package which provides complimentary buffet breakfast, late-check out, and a second room for kids under 21.

Mangala Resort & Spa has come up with its own special offerings too. It created a Work from Villa package to attract remote employees, “bleisure” (business and leisure travel) guests, and digital nomads. Aligning with the brand’s values, the resort will also be hosting weekend leisure activities such as yoga in the coming months.

Leveraging surrounding attractions, Capri is looking to provide scheduled shuttle services for in-house guests.

Marketing to the international market

To promote these new features, hotels are also amping up their marketing efforts.

“We will be increasing our budget for social media marketing as well as investing in metasearch channels such as Google Ads and online travel agencies as these platforms play a key role in travellers’ decision-making process,” Gizelle said.

On top of this, Mangala Resort & Spa is also looking into pursuing partnerships with lifestyle brands that complement the resort’s wellness philosophy.

At The Westin KL, digitalisation is the priority. The team is focusing on diversifying their online offers to increase direct booking from hotel sites and Marriott Bonvoy. They’re also taking into consideration social networking platforms such as LinkedIn and Tripadvisor to provide updates and improve rankings respectively.

Le Méridien will be focusing on digital marketing too, targeting countries where there’s a high potential of its citizens being interested to visit Malaysia.

“We will also be sending our sales team colleagues to the targeted markets to gain opportunities through participating in tradeshows and sales visits in key countries as soon as travel restrictions allow,” Michael added.

Capri by Fraser is a new 43-storey hotel in Bukit Bintang

On Capri’s end, the team is planning to leverage their booking engine to encourage direct bookings, while offering exclusive discounts to members.

The new hotel is also hoping to promote local attractions, food hunts, and café hopping, bolstering the Malaysian tourism economy as a whole in ways that appeal to the international crowd.

Having visited many of these hotels ourselves for our workcation series and seeing how resilient they’ve been in the face of pandemic challenges, we’re confident that they’ll be able to successfully rebound with all these strategies in place.

  • Read more articles we’ve written about tourism here.

Featured Image Credit: Vulcan Post / Mangala Resort & Spa / Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)