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JOHOR BARU: The hotel industry in the state is expecting a marked improvement in occupancy rates this upcoming Chinese New Year season as well as the long school break in February, after two years of pandemic curtailed bookings.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Johor chapter chairman Ivan Teo said he expects to see better occupancy rates as people are more confident to travel due to the high vaccination rate.

He said hotels especially in the Desaru area are looking forward to the upcoming festive period.

He pointed out that although Johor relies very much on Singaporean tourists, the pandemic had taught the industry that the domestic market is also important.

He said the tourist industry has to broaden its focus and re-package interesting sites and activities instead of emphasising city sites and shopping which are the traditional attractions.

Teo urged hoteliers to promote the many sightseeing places in the state that have the allure to draw tourists but had long been in the shadows of the traditional attractions.

He welcomed the opening up of the border, like the sandbox concept, saying this will help boost tourism in the state.

Lotus Desaru Beach Resort & Spa manager U. Vijaayanathan said the resort is registering 33 per cent occupancy rates running into the festive season.

He said the average pick-up is one to three per cent and he is quite optimistic that an occupancy rate of 55 to 60 per cent will prevail during Chinese New Year.

“We already have bookings from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Negri Sembilan, Perak and Pahang,” he said.

He predicted 2022 will be a rebound year for industry players and that the recovery in domestic tourism will boost businesses all around.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Johor Baru general manager Melanie Rahayu said her hotel is witnessing a surge in bookings for Chinese New Year.

She said bookings from guests from northern states complement the upsurge in bookings from within the state itself.

“I do see a possibility of revival of hitherto dormant businesses and once the borders between Singapore and Johor are re-opened, things will be buoyant again,” she said.

Pulai Springs Resort general manager Sunny Soo said the Year of the Tiger has brought a surge in bookings.

“We were about 50 per cent full in recent weeks and expect a full hotel running into the festive season proper,” he said.

Soo said most of the bookings came from the north and many were ecstatic at the resort’s Chinese New Year room package offers.

He agreed hotels will enjoy good occupancy rates as Malaysians now want to travel with their families after the frustrations of a long lockdown period.

Lim Lily Lian, general manager of Sands and Sandals Desaru Beach Resort and Spa, said she has seen sharp increases in sales volume which raised the prospect of recovery from two lean years of Covid-19 constraints.

“Increased bookings will employ job seekers. We foresee the trend to continue until early Ramadhan in April,” she said, adding that Desaru was expecting a good run of tourist arrivals until the end of this year.

She anticipated the 24-day school break from Feb 25 to March 20 will further spur tourist arrivals.

“The sound of the tiger’s roar will bring a steady flow of visitors,” she added.

This Chinese New Year which falls on Feb 1 and 2 will usher in the year of the water tiger.

Source : NST