After 18 months of frequent closures, Penang's boutique hotels hang their hopes on interstate travel being allowed soon

Published date26 September 2021
Publication titleMalay Mail Online

Over the past 13 years - coinciding with the city's inscription as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2008 - the city of George Town has become known for much more than its excellent street food.

Boutique hotels, especially those located in the heritage zone, were particularly popular with out-of-state visitors as well as international tourists as they were uniquely adapted and retained the building's original heritage features.

Now - together with most other businesses - many of these are struggling to stay afloat after 18 months of frequent closures.

One of these is Noordin Mews which is located at the border of the heritage zone right in the heart of George Town.

Hotel manager Belinda Boey said the hotel has closed since January this year and only a small number of staff were kept on for basic maintenance and cleaning of the hotel.

'We did have some business in June and July last year when everything reopened after the first movement control order but after that, it continued to go downhill as most of our customers are Europeans,' she said.

International borders have closed since March last year while interstate travel has been frequently disrupted throughout the different iterations of the movement control order since last year.

Boey said most of the hotel staff found other jobs last year and the hotel did not hire new ones as they could already foresee that they would not be getting a high number of bookings due to the closure of international borders.

However, they are now hopeful that interstate travel might be allowed soon as the hotel has been getting week-long bookings from out-of-state customers.

'We are getting bookings for December so we will prepare to reopen the hotel at that time. Hopefully interstate travel will have reopened by then,' she said.

She added the hotel building belonged to the owner so they don't have to worry about rent and have managed to stay afloat till now.

Over at Ren I Tang Heritage Inn which is in the heart of Little India, operations manager Eu Yeok Siew said they are open but they hardly have any guests since interstate travel is still not allowed.

The hotel which opened back in 2017 won a special mention under the category of conservation, enhancement and adaptation at the George Town World Heritage Incorporated's (GTWHI) Heritage Recognition Award 2020.

Ren I Tang also used to enjoy a high number of bookings from international and out-of-state travellers.

'We are using this time to repurpose some of our spaces,' Eu said. One of...

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