Groups warn Chinese tourist influx could overwhelm under-staffed hotels

Angie Tan

While Malaysia’s 30-day visa-free travel policy for citizens of China is good news for the country’s tourism, the influx of tourists could yet overwhelm under-staffed hotels here. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 7, 2023.

THE shortage of workers in the hospitality industry could just put a damper on the possible influx of tourists from China, following the implementation of visa-free travel, tourism industry players said.

Malaysian Business Hotel Association deputy president Jarod Chia told The Malaysian Insight as it is, they are finding it difficult even to cope during weekends or school holidays.

“That’s how bad the situation is,” Chia said.

“The visa-free travel is a great development for the country’s tourism industry but the hospitality industry, the hotels and other lodgings, are grappling with worker shortage.”

Chia said the hotels need many housekeeping staff.

“Hotels preferably would like to hire locals as housekeeping staff but unfortunately, locals are not willing to take up these jobs.”

Chia said hotels have reported that the locals they managed to hire do not stay on the job for long.

“They will quit after a month or two. They do not seem to be able to adapt to this type of work.”

He also said making up rooms is not as simple as what most people make it out to be.

He said cleanliness, particularly in post-Covid era, has become the top requirement of every guest.

“They are concerned about contracting unknown bacteria that could be lurking in unclean, unhygienic rooms.

Chia is now looking to the Tourism Ministry and the Human Resources Ministry to sort out the problem.

He said 99% of those in the hospitality industry are facing this problem. They are all looking for room cleaners.

“If locals do not want the job, then let the foreigners have it. Let them come and work,” he said.

Chia said if the problem remains unresolved, it could damage Malaysia’s reputation and it could possibly hit the Visit Malaysia Year 2026.

He said the industry is also to be blamed as hotels in the post-pandemic period failed to provide training to new workers they had hired to replace those laid off during the pandemic.

“The new workers we hire now lack relevant knowledge of what they’re supposed to do.”

Industry players say the only thing that could stop Chinese tourists from coming to Malaysia is flight ticket prices. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 7, 2023.

While the hotels moan and groan, bus and tour coach owners are rubbing their hands in anticipation of a boon in business.

“We are ready,” Malaysian Small Bus Drivers Association chairman Simon Sim said.

Sim said the current fleet of small buses is more than sufficient to handle the expected influx of tourists.

He said the association members had been preparing for this expected spike in arrivals for a long time.

“We are just waiting for them to come.”

Sim said the association has also prepared themselves for the changing trend in how tourists now travel around.

“Not everyone who comes will necessarily charter a bus for a tour. If they travel alone or in a very small group, they are more likely to take the ride-hailing services to get around,” he said.

“It’s only when they are travelling in a large group that they will book a small bus with us.

Sim also said the other changing habit is for a flexible itinerary.

“Gone are the days of fixed itineraries.”

Sim said the tourism industry has recovered to between 60 and 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

A majority of tourists are from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the furthest, China, he said.

Tour guides are also bracing for the expecting influx in tourists.

Malaysia United Tour Guide Association president Wong Lit Jer said there are sufficient guides to handle the influx of tourists.

“We have many part-time guides to make up for any shortage,” he said.

Wong said he believed there would be an increase in arrivals as online data showed there has been a significant increase in searches for Malaysia tourism after the announcement of the visa-free travel.

He said the search had exceeded 150% of the normal traffic.

The only thing that could stop these people from coming, he said, is the price of air tickets.

“The prices of tickets between China and Malaysia rose significantly after the announcement of the visa-free travel. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Malaysia’s 30-day visa-free travel policy for citizens of China and India will be in effect from December 1, 2023 until December 30, 2024.

Malaysia’s visa liberalisation plan comes ahead of the Visit Malaysia Year 2026, where the country is targeting 26.1 million foreign tourist arrivals and an estimated domestic spending of RM97.6 billion. – December 7, 2023.

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  • Again - businesses are eager to profit but not to train local staff or pay them a fitting salary. Import more foreigners they cry and then wonder why there is a housing shortage.

    Posted 6 months ago by Malaysia New hope · Reply