GEORGE TOWN,Feb 10: Several hotels in Penang have expressed their interest in turning into low-risk Covid-19 centres (LRCCs) or workers’ hostels as the hospitality industry is on the brink of collapse during the movement control order.
State Tourism and Creative Economy Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said with many hotels struggling with virtually no stay allowed, they would rather turn their unused rooms into something useful.
In a statement, he said the state government had relayed the requests by these hotels to the National Security Council and the Health Department.
“Foreign countries, including Thailand, have already converted hotels into LRCCs to ease the current capacity shortage and keep hotel operations going at the same time,” he said.
Yeoh said hotels interested in converting their properties to LRCCs or workers’ hostels can do so by contacting the tourism, arts and culture ministry at email@example.com.
Those not registered as hotels with the tourism ministry can register at the ministry’s Tourism Industry Licensing System at www.spip.gov.my.
Currently, there are four LRCCs in the state, including the new one in Balik Pulau. The first LRCC was set up at the Kompleks Masyarakat Penyayang on Scotland Road and the other at the Penang Prison and Seberang Perai Prison in Jawi when the remand cluster numbers shot up.
The LRCC, according to the health ministry’s website, is to treat those who are asymptomatic and those with minor symptoms of the virus, referred to as category one and two patients respectively. In the event the patients’ conditions worsen, they will be transferred to a hospital.
As of yesterday, there had been 9,269 positive cases with 1,256 active cases and 14 deaths to date here. According to the Penang Health Department, there were 912 positive cases between Jan 31 and Feb 6. About 68% were locals and the rest foreigners.
Nine Penang hotels have closed their doors for good since the MCO was imposed last year while 21 more have temporarily closed and the future looks bleak for the industry in the state.
The hotel industry had a bull run for the past two decades, especially after George Town was named a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008.
Rooms in pre-war homes turned into boutique hotels were a big hit with foreigners. Four-star and five-star hotels sprouted in key areas such as Gurney Drive and Batu Ferringhi, with average room rates above RM350 during peak seasons.
But a month after the first lockdown last year, some of these hotels, including a boutique hotel, had closed.
The conference business also collapsed, as 20 major events were cancelled. Government reports show the conference industry contributed RM1.5 billion to the state’s economy in 2019.
But with leisure and business travellers no longer around, a large section of the 279 registered hotels, with over 15,000 rooms in the state, face an uncertain future.
The Malaysian Association of Hotels had said the hotel industry as a whole had been “badly shaken” by the pandemic, with single-digit occupancy since the start of MCO 2.0.
More hotels are likely to take drastic action to cut their losses because of the effect of the second MCO, while a hotel workers’ union had said its 8,000-odd members are in dire straits.