By Serena Mui
With hotels popping up like mushrooms in Ipoh and more coming in the pipeline, Ipoh is experiencing an unprecedented hotel boom. For a town that has limited international access, meaning, an airport that is yet to be able to accommodate flights other than those between Singapore and Ipoh, the question on local inhabitants’ lips as they scratch their heads in wonderment is, how these rooms are going to be filled and by whom? Ipoh Echo decided to meet some of the hotel operators to learn more about this boom phenomenon.
Maintaining unique selling points is key to success
ibis Styles Ipoh
Being the newest player and the first international hotel on the block, this modern hotel is part of the huge Accor Group that is renowned for its service and friendly staff. This latest landmark of Ipoh is situated in the heart of town and I spoke with the general manager of ibis Styles Ipoh, Ms Charanita Gill.
Enthusiastically explaining the different concepts offered by the ibis chain, and showing me the different types of rooms available, she was warm and friendly, a reflection and testimony to the friendly and welcoming concept of the hotel itself. I was fascinated by the red, blue and green pillow logo and soon learned that the Red Pillow represented ultimate comfort, the Blue Pillow the essential comfort and the Green Pillow represents trendy comfort.
The ibis Styles Ipoh centres on the latter with the vibrant green colour evident in its decor and personal touches. The green is also associated with Ipoh’s famous Pomelo fruit, lending local character to their overall theme. I was especially impressed with their attention to detail and liked the idea of some rooms coming with a separate living area and even a considerable size attached outdoor seating area, which is virtually unheard of in the budget category type hotel. ibisstyles.com
Rates: starting from RM160.20.
Being new and located away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, this establishment is keenly applying various different methods to attract customers. With Mr David Tsen, the General Manager of Symphony Suites at the helm, this establishment will definitely be a hotel worth looking out for. Significant improvements have already been noticed since David took over and with his sales and marketing background, there are many more additions in the pipeline to look forward to. Symphony Suites will definitely be among the more competitively packaged and priced hotels in Ipoh.
David feels location is not something of an issue, as it can easily be accessed by turning off from the North-South Expressway. Whether you are coming from the north or from the south, you will not have to go through town traffic to get to Symphony Suites. This is great, because after a long journey the last thing you want to contend with, is town traffic.
Another interesting feature about this hotel is that a good number of their rooms come with a guest bathroom. For some people, who are very particular about their personal space, I presume this feature would be a hit. All the rooms are modern, bright, welcoming and with a limestone cliff view. There is also a luxurious penthouse with a lovely large balcony area, ideal for outdoor entertaining and has the iconic limestone hill view too.
Rates: starting from RM160
Hotel Le Metrotel
This family-run business has been in operation for about one year. With a total of 30 rooms (which is impressive because from the outside, it doesn’t seem possible to have so many rooms) this little establishment is enjoying their fair share of brisk business. Centrally located in busy downtown Ipoh, they were smart to provide their guests with free car park space. The rooms are modern, comfortable and pleasant. I was impressed with the little ‘high-tech’ additions such as a digital display panel outside each room indicating different types of information. Gone is the old little tag, which you hang outside your door, so common with most other hotels big and small. I would consider it to be a delightful place to stay if you were passing through Ipoh.
Rates: starting from RM108
The Happy 8 Retreat
This rather quaint back-to-nature concept hotel is nestled on a quiet street in the middle of old town Ipoh. This retreat styled hotel focuses on offering their guests the unique experience of serenity within the city. Taking pains to reflect nature as much as possible, the walls of each room is wooded and successfully creates the feeling of being in the middle of a little forest. The walls are painted by artists who were given a free hand to express their own individual artistic talents.
Rates: starting from RM288
As another new concept hotel, this establishment prides itself with being totally unique. From its decor to its quirky style, this hotel will certainly provide you with an unforgettable experience. There are personal touches evident everywhere you turn.
I was amazed to find that they were able to accommodate a large number of rooms with seemingly endless corridors without compromising on style and comfort. mboutiquehotels.com
Rates: starting from 200MYR
This impressive new addition to Ipoh is quite out of the norm. Situated way out at Meru Jaya (far, by local Ipohites standards) this hotel is like no other around. It boasts of having a well-designed pillarless convention hall that has a seating capacity of 2500, a first for Ipoh in the hotel industry.
The rooms are simple yet modern with refreshingly striking colours. All the rooms come with beds that are designed to ‘sit’ just off the ground, giving you a different sleeping experience.
To date the hotel has enjoyed a high percentage of patronage due to its huge convention hall. The response, according to Ms Yvonne Phoo, who is Casuarina’s senior sales and marketing manager, is quite promising, with many of the guests being Japanese and Taiwanese. The cuisine served is a big hit with these visitors, which keeps them coming back for more.
Rates: starting from RM188
Ipoh Downtown Hotel
This is another new player in the hotel industry in Ipoh, but with a distinct twist. The owners are already very much into the tourism industry, owning several travel agencies around the country. It was their passion for promoting Malaysia and Ipoh in particular, that birthed the idea of developing a hotel offering better than average accommodation for their customers. What better way to do this than to have your own hotel.
Spending some time with Ms Peggie Ng, the hotel manager, I soon learned just how committed this establishment is to providing their customers with the whole package experience. The one stop concept is certainly paying off as they enjoy almost 70 per cent occupancy at any given time.
They also stand out among others in their class, because they have an apartment facility and a studio unit with cooking facilities to offer interested clients. Both these are very attractively priced. Spacious rooms, modern furnishings, its centralized location and competitive pricing, all make it a good choice.
Rates: starting from 118 MYR
This was my last stop on my journey into exploring the hotels in Ipoh. I was particularly interested in finding out just how they were doing and perhaps even the secret to their success. I assumed it was doing well because almost every time I passed this hotel or was there attending a function, the car park was full and there seemed to be people everywhere.
When I met with Mr David Loong the COO, I soon understood the secret of MH’s success. A man with a vision, Mr David is perhaps one of the few “captains” who knows how to find the balance between giving his guests the very best and yet keeping his investors happy. Through good governance and his keen sense to explore different avenues to bring in a respectable amount of business, MH has been able to stay competitive and enjoy a high occupancy rate, no matter the season.
Instead of getting into a price war with competitors, this hotel stays focused in providing its guest with good service and a comfortable stay. Located just off the North-South Expressway, it’s well positioned to attract travellers going in either direction. You simply can’t miss it, even if you are not familiar with this little town.
Among the attractions offered at MH is the Skylounge, which is unique because of its picturesque view of Ipoh. On a clear night, the view is simply breathtaking, whether it’s the night sky littered with bright stars or it’s the colourful lights of Ipoh. You can enjoy an evening of good food, good music and fine wine.
Rates: starting from RM220