‘Rotate, prepare to close or hang in’: hostels cling to Malaysian guests to survive

“The normal price is $ 50 a night but now we charge $ 25… My competition is no longer just other hostels, it’s everyone (in Singapore who has a room to spare). I have to compete with those prices, ”the hostel operator told CNA.


This has kept the beds full – as far as restrictions allow – but it’s not enough.

“Even if the demand reaches 50% of the authorized operating capacity, the prices are not there, so we are sacrificing in terms of revenue. I need to have 80% or 90% occupancy to break even at this price, ”said Joyce Kay, Chief Executive Officer of K2 Guest House.

“We survive… but don’t talk about profit – there is no profit at all. It’s like we’re doing charity work, ”said Ms. Kay, who has 270 beds in two branches.

On top of that, establishments face the added costs of more frequent cleaning and a 24-hour front desk to handle crowd control.

READ: Jobless due to SARS, she built a thriving hostel. Now with COVID-19, it’s the shutdown

They also can’t take advantage of the stay craze, as only customers with valid reasons are allowed to book a stay.

According to the Singapore Tourism Board, these reasons include having a home environment that is “not available or accessible” due to renovations, for example.

Other valid reasons relate to “working or domestic conditions”, such as domestic disputes at home, or the desire to stay closer to one’s place of work to reduce commuting time.

It’s a big pinch for Mr Lumanlan, who said he receives at least 20 requests for vacation bookings each month, all of which he has to reject.


While prolonged border closures have hurt hostel operations, operators have mixed feelings about the prospect of a travel restart.

“If the borders open, Malaysians will come back, but not enough people will come back fast enough… The hostels are going to be wiped out,” Chan warned.

They would also be the last to be filled, she said, as they share facilities that many people would bypass in a pandemic.

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