Malaysia hotels look to domestic market as international demand wanes

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Malaysia’s hoteliers are reaching out to the domestic sector to fill rooms, as a weak ringgit has impinged on Malaysians’ appetite for overseas travel and driven more families to consider local vacations.

M Manimaran, senior director of sales & marketing at The Saujana Hotel Kuala Lumpur, noted a slowdown in bookings from regional markets and China this year, while staycations grow in popularity and the urban resort also sees demand coming from local corporates on weekdays.

Hotels in Malaysia are targeting domestic travellers with dining and staycation offers

Likewise, Golden Sands Resort in Penang, having experienced a decline in regional and European markets in 1H2019, has intensified domestic promotions to make up for the shortfall, according to Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman, the resort spokesperson.

Suleiman shared: “(Domestic promotions) have been effective, especially during long weekends and school holidays. Many families choose to drive to the resort, some coming from as far south as Johor. With a car, they are free to travel around Penang, enjoying the sights and sampling the local food.”

Kingston Khoo, director of sales and marketing at Mutiara Taman Negara, opined that Malaysians tend to be more price sensitive as compared with Asian and European guests.

To appeal to the local market, the resort throws in value adds during tacticals such as complimentary jungle activities without dropping rates, as well as allowing children to stay and dine for free.

Khoo said: “The good thing about the domestic market is that the lead time is shorter, which means you will see almost immediate returns on tacticals and promotions.”

Dining has proven an especially effective way for hotels to market to locals.

Michael Delargy, general manager at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, noted that the local market recognises quality when it comes to dining, and is prepared to pay for it. “The restaurant experience needs to be compelling and unique, something not available outside the hotel.”

But as more hotels in Kuala Lumpur compete for the domestic market, some are seeing the need to step up on marketing and present a differentiated offering.

Delargy observed that the domestic market is largely influenced by word of mouth and social media postings and reviews by friends and influencers.

He said: “With so many hotels in Kuala Lumpur competing for the domestic market, the package has to be compelling. A nice hotel alone isn’t going to cut it, and price alone is not attractive. We’ve found success in promotions that provide value such as club lounge access and suite upgrades for the family.”

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