Stranded Malaysians give Singapore hoteliers much needed uplift

Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park / Caption: Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park saw a sudden upswing in hotel occupancy within 24 hours of Malaysia's declared closure

Malaysia’s surprise movement control order, enforced on Wednesday at the stroke of midnight, has brought struggling Singapore hotels some relief from the current business gloom.

Singapore employers, desperate to retain their Malaysian staff and not have them return home where they would remain behind a closed border until the end of this month, have urgently sought short-term accommodation solutions.

Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park saw a sudden upswing in hotel occupancy within 24 hours of Malaysia’s declared closure

Shin Hui Tan, executive director of Park Hotel Group (PHG), told TTG Asia that a flurry of enquiries on hotel rooms and rates came as soon as the lockdown was announced.

“We understood the predicament companies are in and wanted to help them as quickly as possible. We activated our housekeeping teams to turnaround rooms swiftly for immediate check-ins,” said Tan.

Of the Group’s six properties in Singapore, Park Hotel Alexandra on the edge of the city centre has been the busiest. Its city-centre sister property, Grand Park City Hall, is also enjoying an increase of around 40 per cent in its reservations.

Jeane Lim, general manager of Grand Park City Hall, said: “These guests are mainly Malaysian employees lodged by their Singapore employers, whereas some of these are employees of our corporate clients. They are mainly from companies in the oil and gas industries, and most are working in the local plants as technicians, or equivalent.”

Tony Cousens, general manager of both Ramada and Days Hotels by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, saw a sudden upswing in hotel occupancy within 24 hours of Malaysia’s declared closure.

“Particularly, Days Hotel Singapore is favoured among Malaysian bookers due to the in-house Halal-certified restaurant, 21 on Rajah,” he said, adding that his properties are also providing shelter for his own affected Malaysian staff.

“The temporary spike in demand due to the lockdown was a reversal of the plummeting occupancy trend that local hotels have been facing amid the dynamic Covid-19 situation. However, with such severe restrictions on global travel, market recovery will only gradually happen when there is stabilisation and containment of the virus,” Cousens said.

While Singapore hotels are seeing a turnaround in fortunes, they have little intention of making a quick buck out of companies’ misery.

Tan revealed that PHG properties have dropped their rates “to levels never ever put up publicly so as to minimise the financial burden on affected companies”.

While she has shied away from specifying how low her room rates are, she said they are “nowhere near five-star rates” and will sufficiently “help minimise out-of-pocket expenses for companies”.

Tan: hotel rates are kept minimal to ease burden on companies

The Singapore government has pitched in to provide S$50 for each affected Malaysian worker having to stay on in Singapore for work, with the amount going to his/her Singapore employers to help subsidise urgent accommodation.

“We have made our rates affordable so that companies can house their employees in a comfortable environment. I imagine dormitories will be the first choice of some employers, as rates can go as low as S$35 per person per day, but it is six people to a room,” she said.

PHG properties are able to offer single and twin-share arrangements, as well as limited triple-share.

Gilbert Madhavan, general manager of the luxurious One Farrer Hotel, remarked: “While we do not believe in profiting from the situation, this has provided some relief in offsetting our operational costs which will put us in a better position to provide for our employees and tide over this crisis.”

The hotel has about 100 guestrooms taken up by Singapore companies for their Malaysian staff, boosting occupancy by more than 30 per cent.

Madhavan added: “We have rolled out an attractive accommodation package for affected Malaysians in Singapore, and have worked closely with our corporate clients and government bodies to reach out to those in need of lodging.”

The Urban Escape Room Package is valid for Malaysians only and for bookings until April 30.

According to various corporate sources, three- to four-star hotels at the city fringes are charging about S$100 (US$69) to S$160 per night for single occupancy, some with breakfast and most with the opportunity for reduced rates should they extend their stay beyond April 1 when the Malaysian government is expected to lift the movement control order.

However, one general manager of a marine company has had to fork out about S$129 for a single-occupancy standard room per day for each of her three staff across 12 days in a budget hotel. – Additional reporting by Pamela Chow

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