Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hotel Industry: Langkawi in limbo as arrivals fall and govt events cancelled

LANGKAWI: Local tourism industry players are pessimistic about the future as hotel occupancy rate continues to dip to as low as 10%.

The rate in many hotels dropped to 20% last month compared with 80% in the corresponding period last year.

Hotels rated three stars and below are hardest hit, especially with the recent Government cost-cutting ruling to call off functions in hotels.

Kuah assemblyman Datuk Nawawi Ahmad said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had recently agreed to give some leeway to Langkawi that was heavily dependent on government functions to sustain business.

He said 30,000 jobs were at stake if the ruling was not officially lifted soon.

The 700 taxi drivers and car rental operators have also started to feel the pinch.

“If the situation persists, many rental cars could be repossessed by banks due to non-servicing of loans,” he said, adding that there were 3,000 rental cars on the resort island.

Langkawi hotels action committee chairman Ismail Abdul Rahman said some hotels occupancy rate was as low as 10% last month.

“Hotels in Pantai Cenang are doing slightly better with 30% occupancy rate. But the hotels in Kuah are hard hit,” he said.

Seaview Hotel general manager Ooi Cheng Ping said he was worried over the fate of the hotel workers who relied on service points for better income.

“I may have to start retrenching the less skilled workers soon if the trend continues,” he said.

Matta Kedah chapter chairman Pishol Ishak said travel agents hoped the ferry fare would not be increased further as that would only make matters worse.

Its vice-chairman (inbound and transport) A. Gunasagaran said Langkawi was starting to lose its lustre.

“There is no in-depth research to find ways to attract more tourists. We hear a lot of complaints, but no one is coming up with practical solutions,” he said.

The island was recently renamed Jewel of Kedah “but we do not see the shine,” said Gunasagaran.

Langkawi Tourism Action Council general manager Shaharudin Itam said the drop in tourist arrival was a global phenomenon.

“We are in a complex situation – economically and politically. We must be optimistic, things will change for the better eventually,” he added.

Langkawi in limbo as arrivals fall and govt events cancelled
Malaysia Star, Malaysia