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Visitors are slowly coming back
Published on: Monday, July 27, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: Earthquakes and mudfloods have spooked visitors from coming to Kundasang for holidays, leaving lodge operators with barely any business for weeks.

But there are now signs the industry is finally recovering.

It has been near two months since the deadly 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit Ranau, and thereafter mudfloods, damaging properties and cutting off water supply for a week.

According to homestay operators, tourists are now making a return with some saying their outlets have been fully booked in August.

Walai Tokou operator Kohadie Watiman said 50 per cent of the accommodation is now filled with guests and could be hitting over 60 to 70 per cent by September.

The situation is much better than having only two to three families checking in a few days after the earthquake.

"Before the earthquake, the occupancy was full, it stayed on until June 8, three days after the first and most powerful jolt hit Ranau," he told the Daily Express.

Kohadie said he had also not lost any of his bookings, stressing that it will be all business until end of the year.

"We did not cancel any bookings. The tourists have agreed to postpone their stay here," he said.

Walai Tokou is a licensed homestay operator with house owners serving as host to their visitors.

It has homestay accommodation across several villages in Kundasang.

Kota Belud Tanak Nabalu operator Djuanis Mogirong said he also secured 10 groups to his facility, while about 20 groups are expected to be at his Bilit Homestay in August.

"Tourists now prefer to stay with local communities. The end of July and August onwards seem to be positive," he said.

Djuanis revealed he had lost around 90 per cent worth of two months business after his guests cancelled their bookings following the two disasters.

But not all are enjoying good business returns as yet.

Most large hotel and lodge operators around Kundasang are still recording very, very low occupancy.

But Mount Kinabalu Heritage Resort and Spa Manager Juliana Lidwin told the Daily Express business in the food and beverage department is getting better.

"There are more and more people coming in to dine or to hold private functions here. Mostly locals," she explained.

"Perhaps the trauma and fear remain fresh, that is why the number of those checking-in has not picked up," she said.

The hotel normally enjoys around 60 per cent occupancy rate.

Towards this end Lidwin assured the integrity of the hotel building is safe contrary to several reports in the media. She noted Mount Kinabalu Heritage Resort and Spa obtained the certificate of fitness a week after the June 5 earthquake by the Malaysian Public Works Institute (Ikram).

"They came and inspected the building three days after the earthquake. Ikram officers told us there is nothing major, just some minor cracklines on the wall.

"No serious damages on the super-structures like the pillar and all that," said Lidwin and revealed officers from the Public Works Department and the police also carried out inspections, thereafter.

Celyn Resort Kinabalu meanwhile reported that business is still very, very bad in all areas, adding that they are only seeing around two to three people checking in each day.

This is compared to the 60 to 70 per cent occupancy rate it experienced before the earthquake.

"The ones who checked in also are foreign tourists who came from quake-prone nations like Taiwan and Japan," said a front desk officer who only wanted to be known as Lisa.

Lisa noted the resort had not experienced any serious damages from the earthquake and assured their situation was much better than some other resorts in the area.

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