Move to house foreign workers in Malaysia hotels draws criticism

Hotel associations in Malaysia have hit out at a government-led initiative to temporarily house foreign workers at hotels to curb the escalating Covid-19 cases caused by cramped living conditions at workers’ dormitories.

The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) said the initiative was “the best alternative at the moment” as it would also provide a lifeline to hotel operators suffering the brunt of the virus crisis.

Malaysia rolls out initiative to house foreign workers in hotels to tackle rising Covid-19 cases

The cost to rent a hotel room will be RM200 (US$49) per person per month, and there will be an additional RM20 charge to cover water and electricity. This is regardless of hotel category.

MOTAC’s initiative in collaboration with the Department of Manpower Peninsular Malaysia will be carried out in accordance to the Minimum Standards on Housing, Accommodation and Workers’ Standards Act (Act 446).

Applications have been opened to interested hotels that meet the requirements. However, instead of welcoming the initiative as a saviour to their struggling businesses, hotel associations have criticised the move, citing the low room rates and impracticality of the solution as reasons.

Malaysia Budget & Business Hotel Association (formerly known as Malaysia Budget Hotel Association) national deputy president, Sri Ganesh Michiel, explained: “The hotel rate fixed by the government is very low and hotels will be on the losing end. There is a high possibility that the workers, who had been living in hostels in the past, will damage the hotel rooms and the hotel will have to bear the (repair) cost.”

When asked what would be a good rate, he suggested RM50 per person, per night for hotels in the budget to mid-tier category.

Yap Lip Seng, CEO, Malaysian Association of Hotels, shared that the government’s initiative may not be in hotels’ best interests.

He said: “Various factors need to be taken into consideration (when housing foreign workers), including the expected high wear and tear as well as different needs of these workers, in comparison with normal hotel guests. Capacity of hotel rooms is also limited by bed set-up, while special control measures are needed to ensure physical distancing is practiced.”

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