Millennials Have It In Driving Tourist Arrival Rates Up, With Domestic Travellers Hot On Their Heels, Says Senior Luxury Hotelier

Zulkifli Rahman Director of Sales & Marketing The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi Malaysia

The business momentum of the Malaysian hotel industry is still in its recovery stages although tourist arrivals and occupancy rates have been increasing substantially since April 1, this year following the debilitating lockdowns of 2020 and 2021.

But this recovery has been seen to be faster, almost unfazed, in the high-end or luxury hospitality segment as compared to other hotels across the nation, in returning to pre-pandemic levels.

The critical issues facing the hospitality industry, which is shared by some services, involve tourists arrivals — while operators continue to wrestle with a tangle of issues from the slow return of foreign tourists — manpower shortage, higher wages to higher operating costs as overheads and prices of food and materials soar, among others. Alternative to these were also scare.  

The global luxury market size was valued at $945.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11% during 2021-2027 to reach 1.1 trillion in 2027. [Source: Allied Marketing Research 2021]

Luxury travel services cover most desirable and premium experiences in terms of luxurious accommodations, convenient transport facilities and authentic travel experiences. The service providers aim to provide outstanding services to its travellers. For example, use of private jets, spas, special menus, private island rentals and unique services.

The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi (TRCL) Director of Sales & Marketing Zulkifli Rahman said: “Through my experience in various countries the last 20 years, the trend has shifted since the beginning of the pandemic, we are now seeing a strong increase of millennial travellers looking for a stay experience in private villas or luxury accommodation.

The millennials are a new generation of affluent travellers at TRCL, and they are socially present. Our social influencer programme is another marketing initiative that will continue to connect, inspiring others to dream of The Ritz-Carlton brand of vacation in Langkawi, he added.

Zul, as he is fondly known in industry circles, said: “These new travellers are more interested to experience the exclusive resort and the local island offerings, the demand for health and wellness options have increased and continue to expect the highest quality and service levels during their stay. Our guests know what to expect of TRCL, they are emotionally attached to the brand.

“They make up 60 per cent of our occupancy rate this year, guests aged 50 and above make up the remaining tourists’ arrivals. What was interesting is that, once the borders were opened this year, the majority of the guests at the resort were domestic tourists against our staple of foreign guests.

They seek to connect with nature, replenish and restore their sense of wellbeing, as well as explore new ways to enrich, regenerate and recharge their lives and their loved ones.

Having undergone lockdown with restrictions, the Malaysian affluent travellers, especially the millennials, look for places to showcase their refreshed lifestyle through their social media platforms, capturing beautiful images and videos.

TRCL is a real attraction for the affluent millennials in Malaysia, he said, that the present lower Ringgit exchange rate have offered better opportunities for these guests to stay longer while increasing the number of advance bookings for the resort towards the end of the year.

Zul said the key drivers of rising travel trends today include people being inclined towards unique and memorable holiday experiences, increase in the middle-and upper-class disposable income and related expenditures, and growth in need and interest of people to spend more time with family.

Asked on the challenges posed by the pandemic and endemic stages, he said being a Marriott managed property, we adhered to Marriott’s guidelines throughout the crisis. The pandemic definitely affected everyone and every business on the island.

“Service was maintained at its highest level; we did not retrench any of our 294 staff and we were able to sustain ourselves through the pandemic till today. We continued with training programmes to ensure operations were kept smooth and safe.

Specifically, operations adhered to Marriott’s ‘Commitment to Clean’ which was carefully followed in all areas of the 11-acre resort for the comfort and safety of our guests, even until today, he said, adding communication is of utmost importance during a crisis such as this. We ensure that communications remain opened with our guests, suppliers and staff.

“For this digitisation is the key to communications – keeping our channels and platforms open and smooth.”

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