The Malaysian Association of Hotels’ (MAH) statistics on 1Q hotel occupancy showed a slight drop to 64.2 per cent, compared with 65.7 per cent in 1Q2018, despite Tourism Malaysia announcing an improvement in arrivals performance.
The NTO recently announced that tourist arrivals showed a 2.7 per cent growth to 6.7 million tourists in 1Q2019.
Some deduce that the disparity comes down to how arrivals figures are quantified.
MAH’s CEO, Yap Lip Seng, commented: “Tourism Malaysia gets their statistics from the Immigration Department, but whether those numbers shown are tourists (benefiting the traditional players) or not, remains a question mark.”
He said MAH had on several occasions proposed to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia for the reintroduction of arrival cards at entry points, where foreigners are required to state their reason for visiting the country and accommodation type.
He said some foreigners coming into the country could be staying with friends and relatives, or at vacation rental services such as Airbnb instead of hotels, possibly explaining the disparity between hotel occupancy and arrivals.
According to Tourism Malaysia’s arrival statistics for 1Q2019, arrivals from China grew by 8.8 per cent to 841,800 tourists, from 773,732 in 1Q2018. Yap viewed the Chinese market as a low-hanging fruit which could be further tapped by the introduction of visa-on-arrival.
Steve Woon, senior vice president – sales marketing of Lexis Hotel Group, agreed that the market was soft and described Airbnb as a “big killer” for hotels.
He shared that the government should make visa requirements easier and cheaper for all major markets, including China, in order to further encourage tourists to visit the country.
He shared that Chinese arrivals to the Lexis properties in Malaysia had seen a “20 per cent drop easily year-to-date”. Chinese tourists are the top medium-haul market to Malaysia and spent an average of 6.1 nights in Malaysia in 1Q2019.