Hospitality in practice: (From left) Sarawak Cultural Village general manager Jane Lian Labang, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, Malaysian information director Peggy Chou and Wee sharing a toast during a dinner for a group of Taiwanese tourism players in Kuching.
Kuching: The Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area tourism council chairman Datuk Wee Hong Seng has urged budget hoteliers in the state to set up an association.
This is because the sector's needs and requirements are different from those of homestays and high-end establishments.
Currently operating in the state is a local chapter of the Malaysia Association of Hotels, which represents expensive hotels, and Sarawak Homestay Association.
Wee, the former Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) president said that part of the budget hotel sector’s problem in obtaining licences was the issue of land titles.
He said the matter was complex and the industry needed a united voice to solve the issue quickly.
“For accommodation in shop houses, which are not corner units and not on the ground floor, I believe that many of their titles are classified as residential.
“To change it to commercial use, there are a lot of steps to take. “Further, the concern is about fire escapes in old shop houses. If large enough fire escapes were added behind the shop houses, it gives rise to the problem of occupying public land,” Wee said.
Aside from these complications, Wee said the budget hoteliers were unhappy that the requirements on them were more stringent compared to those running home stays.
Wee said the homestay programme, initiated under the Federal Tourism Ministry, allowed entrepreneurs to operate on residential land under a different set of safety rules.
“The Tourism Council's view is that we must offer solutions and not just complain.
“On the one hand, we can blame red tape, but a counter argument can be made that the authorities have, in fact, been lenient (in terms of enforcement).
“In the end, I do agree that the rules need a relook,” Wee said. Having an association would also better enable budget hoteliers to self regulate member activities, he added.
Those in the tourism industry approached by The Star all agreed that budget hotels were important for the state’s tourism growth.
STF president Audry Wan Ullok described the new wave of modern yet affordable hotels as filling a market gap.
Meanwhile, one of the state’s most successful boutique hotel operators, Steve Ng, who is the managing director of 360 Group Hotels, said the success of tourism in Sabah began with the promotion of high quality but low cost rooms.
Visitor arrivals in Sarawak last year totalled 3.2 million, with those from Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines making up 49% of the foreign visitors while the largest block of visitors continued to be interstate travellers from Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia.
It is clear from the figures that budget hotels serve a very big share of the tourists.
As a result, the budget hotel segment has become the quickest growing, with establishments mushrooming across the state.
(News taken from The Star, Sarawak)