Madam Aida Abdul and her family had not taken a holiday break since Malaysia first implemented its movement control order in March, as they did not wish to risk contracting Covid-19. But as they started to feel a touch of cabin fever, they decided to take advantage of the long Christmas weekend.
Most hotels which Madam Aida, a lawyer, looked at online were full, but she managed to secure a room when she called up a beach resort in Kuantan, Pahang, directly.
The 42-year-old mother of three said during her stay at the resort: "I'm not feeling too paranoid as we are staying in an outdoor chalet and not in a hotel room, so there is less risk of bumping into people. I sprayed everything with disinfectant before letting everyone in."
Malaysia's hoteliers cheered when inter-state travel was allowed to resume on Dec 7.
Hotel bookings shot up over Christmas as well as for the upcoming New Year period, mostly at beach resorts, according to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), which represents more than 900 hotels nationwide.
Quite a number of hotels are offering promotions, with discounts of up to 70 per cent.
But many domestic travellers are still likely to be prudent about spending and postpone vacation plans due to a flagging economy, coupled with the fear of Covid-19.
In previous years, hoteliers have seen an occupancy rate of up to 90 per cent during the Christmas period. "For the year-end holiday period, we expect an average occupancy rate of 50 per cent to 60 per cent, depending solely on the domestic market," MAH chief executive Yap Lip Seng was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times last week.
Island destinations like Langkawi are popular and seeing higher hotel occupancy rates after being hit hard by the pandemic.
"We were informed that hotel bookings around the island have been encouraging, and if it stays that way, we can achieve the target of 250,000 tourist arrivals this month," Langkawi Development Authority chief executive Ahmad Hezri Adnan was quoted as saying by the Bernama news agency on Dec 19.
A worker at the five-star Datai Langkawi resort said it was seeing a high occupancy rate over the Christmas weekend.
The Majestic Hotel in Kuala Lumpur saw a surge in bookings after the travel ban was lifted. "We had a full occupancy rate on Dec 25 and we are seeing a very high occupancy rate for Dec 26 as well. We are already fully booked for Dec 31," said one of its workers.
Malaysia Airports Holdings group chief executive Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh said in a statement on Dec 23: "Our main hub, KL International Airport, is expecting more than 99,000 domestic passengers and 19,000 international passengers for the period between Dec 24 and 31, a fourfold increase from the same period last month."
But with the country's cumulative Covid-19 infections crossing the 100,000 mark last Thursday, some Malaysians remain wary of travelling. "We are staying at home because of Covid-19. I want to go on holiday and relax but not in this climate," said housewife Katrina Razali, 40. "I can't relax when all I can think of is, 'Is this safe?'"
Hotel safe measures
• Scanning the MySejahtera contact tracing app upon entry to the hotel
• Temperature checks
• Filling up forms on health status
• Wearing face masks
• Practising safe distancing
• Frequently sanitising rooms and facilities
• Keycards and remote controls covered in plastic
• Contactless check-in
• Sanitising guests' luggage
• Buffet breakfast served to guests