Saturday, March 17, 2007

Changing Image of Budget Hotels

KUALA LUMPUR: It used to be that when you tell someone that you are staying at a budget hotel, eyebrows would be raised and knowing winks and nudges would be exchanged or, worse still, protestations of horror would follow.

Images of sleazy men and women, bug-filled mattresses, filthy toilets and murderous thieves and robbers would immediately come to mind.

But as a modern backpacker travelling on a shoestring budget would tell you, such grim images are mostly outdated.

In fact, budget hotels and guesthouses these days are trendy and offer comfortable accommodation complete with Internet connection — and, best of all, it is at a fraction of the price you would pay at a regular hotel.

Thomas Ward, a tourist from Britain, is one of those happy with the budget accommodation here.

On a backpacking holiday with his friend David Paul, the two have been able to enjoy delicious local food and the city night scene on their shoestring budget.

"It’s great. The accommodation not only suits my taste but also my budget," he said with a grin as he laid down on a mat for a "tanning session" on the porch of a budget guesthouse in Tengkat Tong Shin.

Tengkat Tong Shin, situated in the Golden Triangle, houses old colonial buildings which have been modified into stylish guesthouses and eateries offering some of the best food in town.

The street is fast becoming a hotspot among budget travellers who spend between two and five days, or more, here.

Thanks to the push by the Tourism Ministry, budget hotels around the country have evolved from grimy old shophouses into modern, clean accommodation offering first class service.

With the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 in full swing, many have spruced themselves up with a fresh coat of paint and cosy interior.

Most budget hotels in the country are usually rated three stars and below and the usual facilities are a bed, breakfast and shower room.

Other types of budget accommodation include lodges, chalets and dormitories.

The recent introduction of the no-frills hotel concept by Tune is expected to boost the image of budget accommodation even further.

Tune, a hotel by AirAsia, offers clean and safe hotel accommodation with basic facilities like bed and shower.

Guests can get rooms at rates as low as RM9.90 a night during the promotional period and pay a sum for other facilities like towels and air-conditioner.

Tune director Dennis Melka said the no-frills concept only focuses on what’s important for travellers.

Guesthouses are another type of accommodation popular with budget travellers.

The Anjung KL guesthouse located at Tengkat Tong Shin strives to make guests feel at home with its relaxed atmosphere.

It has a living room, pantry, dining table and book shelves and is within walking distance of some of Kuala Lumpur’s hottest nightclubs and hawker centres.

"We provide travel information as much as possible to our customers and treat them the way we treat guests who visit our home," said its manager Sharon Gan.

With an average room rate of RM65 per night, Anjung KL caters to mostly Europeans, Australians and Thais.

The Green Hut at the Bukit Bintang area is another popular choice and it gets repeat travellers who stay for months.

"We emphasise a lot on cleanliness and house rules like no smoking and drinking so that our guests are comfortable and safe," said its operations manager Azman Ni- zam Othman.

While many major hotels will be happy to achieve a 70 per cent occupancy rate on a regular basis, a high occupancy rate is the norm at Anjung KL and the Green Hut.

While 60 per cent of their guests are walk-ins, rooms can also be reserved online as these hotels have developed their own websites.

"This is what we are trying to achieve in the near future. We want all our budget accommodation to be listed on the Internet for easy reference and booking," said Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MBHA) president Syed Nasarudin Syed Abdul Hadi.

The six-year-old MBHA is also pushing the Tourism Ministry to train and educate its members.

Syed Nasarudin said this was important so that operators would comply with the standard requirements and attract more tourists to stay longer.

The industry is expected to contribute RM3.6 billion for VMY07.

Syed Nasarudin said the budget tourism industry, which included budget airlines, accommodation, car rental and such, was estimated to contribute about RM8.8 billion of the RM44.5 billion tourism revenue targeted this year.

Source : NST
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