HOTELS in Malaysia now represent better value for money than similar properties in neighbouring Thailand, according to UK operators.
Although some hotels in Malaysia have increased their rates for next year, the price hikes have been less than across the border.
Also, a favourable exchange rate for the Malaysian ringgit has meant that in spite of the rate increases prices at some hotels in Malaysia have actually come down.
Visitors should note that direct foreign exchange in the currency has been suspended for the present -Êit can only be bought within Malaysia. Therefore, travellers also need to spend all currency before departure.
Tradewinds contracts manager Franco Sessini estimated that prices at properties featured by Tradewinds were 10%-15% lower than last year.
"Hotels in Malaysia have wanted to maintain, if not increase, their share of the UK market to Asia so they have been very sensible in their pricing," he said.
Sessini said that as the cost of living in Malaysia had also fallen, visitors were getting exceptional value for money. "You can eat very well in a three or four-star hotel in Malaysia, and the costs of eating out have come down about 40% over the past two years," he added.
Sessini said that although Thailand appears to be cheaper because its resorts have a greater choice of three-star hotels, when compared on a like-for-like basis, Malaysia has the edge.
Magic of the Orient managing director Tony Champion said the most popular resorts in Malaysia, such as Penang and Langkawi, were now offering better value for money than the most popular resorts in Thailand, such as Phuket and Ko Samui.
British Airways Holidays product manager Mandy Miller picked out Penang as offering particularly good rates.
She said: "Where hotel prices have gone up in Thailand, our prices for most hotels in Malaysia will be about the same in 2000 as they were this year."
Premier Holidays said there were some good deals to be had in Malaysian resorts even during the peak period of January-April 2000. For example, the operator is offering free room upgrades and extra nights at selected properties for any bookings before the end of September.
Even luxury resorts, such as the privately owned island of Pangkor Laut off the coast of Malaysia, are offering added-value packages to increase their share of UK custom. The Pangkor Laut resort is offering visitors staying one week an extra night free up to mid-December.
Kuoni head of product Francis Torrilla said that hotels in the cities as well as the resort areas also represented good value for money at the moment. Kuala Lumpur, he said, is now cheaper than other capital cities in the Far East.
"Kuala Lumpur is not necessarily any cheaper than it was two years ago, but prices elsewhere have gone up so Kuala Lumpur is offering better value for money," said Torrilla.
Travel 2 product manager Alastair Scott said there was a huge over-supply of rooms in Kuala Lumpur caused by the opening of a number of new properties over the past two years, the latest being the 643-room Mandarin Oriental which opened thissummer.
He said this has led to hotels holding or reducing rates for the coming 12 months. "This has helped make the city increasingly attractive to budget-conscious travellers," he added.
Special offers from Travel 2 include three nights for the price of two at the three-star Swiss Garden Hotel in Kuala Lumpur up to the end of December.
Another deal costs £81 per person for four nights' accommodation - two nights in the Swiss Garden Hotel in Kuala Lumpur with a buffet breakfast, and two nights at the Swiss Garden Resort in Kuantan on a room-only basis. The offer is available until March 31 2000.
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