Hotels not considered ‘essential services’ under govt’s movement control order

Malaysian Association of Hotels CEO Yap Lip Seng says members had reported 170,085 room cancellations as of March 16 due to the Covid-19 scare.

PETALING JAYA: Hotels are not considered essential services to allow them to operate under the movement control order (MCO) announced by Putrajaya last night to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) said.

According to MAH chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng, the tourism, arts and culture ministry said hotels were permitted to operate “limited services”, which included allowing guests who checked in before March 8 to stay until their intended check-out date.

But guests were advised to remain in the room throughout the movement control period, with food and beverage services ordered from room service.

“No new guests are allowed to check in between March 18 and March 31,” Yap said in a statement.

The MCO, announced last night by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, stipulates that all offices and businesses, among others, are to be closed to curtail the spread of Covid-19, which has been declared a pandemic.

All government and private business premises will be closed, except for essential services, including water and electricity, telecommunications, transport, banking and food supply.

On a related note, Yap said that as of March 16, the number of booking cancellations recorded by member hotels stood at 170,085, resulting in losses of RM68 million.

The cancellations, Yap said, were caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, adding they were more concerned about the demand for hotel rooms in the coming months.

“We foresee these losses doubling by the end of the year.”

Yap said the MAH had presented a series of proposals to help the tourism industry — which incurred losses of RM3.37 billion from January to February — rebound.

This included reducing the employers’ contribution to the Employers Provident Fund and increasing the discount for electricity to 30%.

“We are also repeating our call for the minister to review the tourism tax rate to RM1 from RM10.”

Meanwhile, the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK Malaysia) said it would leave it to individual mall managements to decide whether to remain open for essential services, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores housed in their buildings.

“However, in the event the malls deem it impractical, they may decide not to open or may operate for limited business hours as some businesses may already have their internal directives to close,” its president, Teo Ching Kok, said in a circular spotted by FMT.

For businesses providing food and beverage services, they are not allowed to serve dine-in customers. They can only cater to delivery and take-away customers.

Staff of mall managements are also required to work from home where possible.