Hotels cut costs as Covid-19 forces travellers to stay home

Hotels are spending more to keep their guests safe, including cleaning and disinfecting their premises and providing hand sanitisers.

PETALING JAYA: Hotels are cutting costs, including allowing staff to take unpaid leave, encouraging annual leave and stopping overtime, as Covid-19 continues to take its toll on the tourism industry.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) CEO Yap Lip Seng said management staff at some hotels are even considering voluntary pay cuts.

As of March 9, Yap said, hotels nationwide have suffered over RM67 million in losses from cancellations, affecting nearly 160,000 rooms.

The worst affected states are Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and Selangor, with the majority of cancellations coming from Chinese tourists.

On top of this, hotels are also spending more to keep their properties and guests safe.

“Since the beginning of the outbreak, hotels have started screening selected groups of travellers based on the health ministry’s advisory.

“They have also increased cleaning and sanitising premises with recommended chemicals, especially in high traffic areas,” Yap told FMT.

He said hotels are also providing hand sanitisers and masks for guests who need them.

Such measures can be quite costly, even for smaller hotels, Sally (not her real name), the manager of a boutique hotel in Melaka, told FMT.

“We have experienced a 20% drop in occupancy but thankfully, our clientele are mostly free and independent travellers.

“The hotels which are suffering are the ones relying on tour groups. Some of them are experiencing single-digit occupancy rates.”

Still, despite being one of the hotels which have not been badly affected, Sally said it is expensive to keep the property clean and safe.

“We provide masks and hand sanitisers to guests, and their prices now are higher than usual. What’s really expensive is disinfecting the rooms every day because the chemical used is costly.”

She said a 2-litre bottle of disinfectant costs about RM300 and, all in all, measures to keep the hotel safe from Covid-19 costs about RM10,000 a month.

“Because ours is a small property, we don’t employ too many people, so at the moment, there’s no need to cut hours or ask staff to take leave.

“But we can’t run away from having to spend so much because the guests’ safety comes first.”

Budget hotels are also not spared but they are trying to overcome the drop in tourist arrivals by attracting domestic travellers, especially with the school holidays starting this weekend.

Malaysian Budget Hotel Association president Emmy Suraya Hussein told FMT they are taking part in travel fairs organised by tourism associations.

“We are also promoting our hotels with attractive rates and packages, and working with airlines, including Malaysia Airlines and Malindo, for domestic tourists.

“But with the second wave of Covid-19, we are worried that even domestic travellers do not want to travel.”

If things get worse, Emmy said, budget hotels may have to ask staff to take unpaid leave to minimise overhead expenses rather than closing their businesses and leaving their employees without jobs.