The Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020) campaign which aims to draw almost 30 million foreign visitors and increase tourism receipts to RM100bil will see stiffer competition between hoteliers and Airbnb hosts this year.
Besides offering attractive promotions and rates via tie-ups with travel and tour companies, hotels and the Airbnb network are coming up with new selling points such as television channels, “digital butlers” and even new neighbourhoods to explore.
The race to lure guests also includes ramping up marketing efforts.
For example, hotels in Malaysia are promoting themselves by taking part in international events to create awareness and reach out further.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said hotels are working closely with travel and tour operators to offer attractive packages.
“Our hotel members have been participating in travel and trade events locally and overseas, with a focus on the VM2020 promotional themes.
“They are also promoting the VM2020 campaign through their own networks of hotels and brands.
“Instead of offering just promotional rates, the intention is to ensure tourists get a complete experience of Malaysia and enjoy additional value during their stay, ” he said in an interview.
He also said that many hotels are offering value-added services with a digital and technological touch to appeal to tech-savvy guests, such as a digital guest assistant or butler, mobile interaction and guest requests.
“One example would be hotel mobile apps that provide direct and quick assistance to guests. Many hotel brands have introduced these apps across all their establishments.
“The Marriott Bonvoy app, for example, allows guests to request for assistance or additional service at any time during their stay.
“Others have adopted independent apps such as ‘Roomie’, which does similar tasks and even offers on-demand entertainment to guests, ” Yap said, adding that hotels have been banking on big data to maximise guest satisfaction by offering dynamic room rates.
In conjunction with VM2020, MAH has launched the “Discover Malaysia” hotel TV channel earlier this month, aimed at promoting the country’s tourist attractions.
Yap said the association’s members – over 1,000 hotels – use the channel for free.
“Hotels will continue to be an integral part of tourism, contributing tourism receipts that allow the government to develop the industry further.
“Therefore, it is important to ensure the success of VM2020, ” he said, adding that hotels have a proven economic multiplier effect that benefits various levels of the community.
Yap also called for Airbnb, which he describes as a business “competing with hotel lodging”, to be “subjected to the same taxation regime as that of hotels”.
He claimed that the Airbnb business had also raised local housing costs and had led to less reliable tax payments to the local government.
Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) executive director Shaharuddin M. Saaid concurred, saying Airbnb had a substantial impact on the country’s tourism both positively for some and negatively for others over the past two years.
Shaharuddin said effective promotions to attract more high-income tourists is of prime importance in the VM2020 campaign, as Malaysia has “plenty of high-end and luxurious hotels with high standards of service and facilities” to offer.
“Room rates are still generally low even at five-star premier hotel brands, ” he said.
Airbnb said it would continue to highlight new neighbourhoods, especially in urban areas, and experiences for tourists to discover.
“In preparation for VM2020, we will continue to be committed to enabling travel to emerging destinations (such as) the discovery of new neighbourhoods in urban areas, making them more accessible, and empowering local hospitality entrepreneurs to share their spaces and passions with guests around the world, ” it said.
Many destinations that had not benefited from tourism before have now become more popular among tourists, which showed Airbnb’s role in boosting the country’s tourism, it added.
Airbnb said it would also support Malaysia’s tourism initiatives in 2020 through its feature called Airbnb Experiences.
“In 2020, tourists can look forward to more Airbnb Experiences, as we have launched new exciting categories such as animals and cooking.
“Some of the experiences launched this year under those categories are visits to a dairy goat farm in Penang, traditional Nyonya private home dining cooking classes and indigenous cooking classes on a farm, ” it added.
There are already several deals that are meant to give travellers additional reasons to come to Malaysia.
To usher in VM2020, Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur announced on its website a year-long 15% discount on rooms, dining and spa treatments.
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur is partnering Resorts World Genting to offer free return shuttle van service to both destinations, exclusively for its Pavilion Kuala Lumpur Tourists Rewards cardholders.
AirAsia, in expanding its lifestyle offerings, is going to launch its regional flight and hotel promotion on Jan 13, where travellers can expect attractive deals in conjunction with VM2020.
According to Tourism Malaysia, several new hotels are opening in 2020 to accommodate more tourists.Freelance tour guide Cindy Leong Mun Fay, who works mainly in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur, said she hoped to handle more tours in the new year as travellers are skipping certain destinations due to civil disorder there.
“Tourists are avoiding popular destinations such as Hong Kong, India and Chile due to protests. Many of them have opted to come to Malaysia for their holidays in the past few months.
“We can expect more tourist arrivals next year as we are relatively peaceful here with each state offering so many tourism products, ” said Leong, who has been hosting mostly Chinese-speaking tourist for over 10 years.
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