HotelsEnd of an era for a beloved institution where many had fond memories of.

Hotel Equatorial Penang bites the Covid dust

Hotel Equatorial Penang is closing down after more than three decades in operation.
Hotel Equatorial Penang is closing down after more than three decades in operation.

Hoteliers and travellers were saddened by a recent announcement that one of Penang's most iconic properties will be shuttering its doors for good.

Hotel Equatorial Penang is closing its doors due to "adverse business conditions caused by Covid-19", the hotel's management announced earlier this week.

In an official statement dated 27 January, the hotel's general manager Alan HC Ong stated that the hotel will be open to the general public until 10 February.

"Circumstances have made the decision to close our hotel a very painful one. We are particularly appreciative of our employees past and present, who have helped create this hotel into a cornerstone of Penang island hospitality. Together with our associates, we thank you for your terrific support," said Ong in the memo.

The 662-room Hotel Equatorial Penang, which has operated since 1989, was the first five-star hotel in the south of the island. With a MICE capacity of 2,600 pax, the hotel adjoins the championship 18-hole Penang Golf Club and is located near the Penang International Airport.

The property is owned and operated by the Hotel Equatorial Group, which operates two other hotels — one in Kuala Lumpur and the other in Ho Chi Minh City.

K Raj Kumar, chairman of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chapter, expressed his sadness over the hotel's impending closure.

"All hoteliers feel that this is a very sad piece of news as Hotel Equatorial Penang has always been the market leader in Penang. There are many memories (associated with) the hotel," Kumar told New Straits Times.

Past guests of Hotel Equatorial Penang have also taken to social media to recount their memories of the property.

"I was the pianist at The View restaurant in the 90s for a few years. After that I've been back as a musician for many weddings there too. Lovely place and friendly staff. Very sad to see the ending of an icon," Moses Chuah wrote on Facebook.

Others like Radek Bokuvka said Hotel Equatorial Penang's nasi rendang daging was one of the best he had ever had.

Lamenting the the loss of Hotel Equatorial Penang, former federal finance minister and previous Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng noted that as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the twin cities of George Town (capital of Penang) and Melaka both lost some of their earliest five-star hotels. For the latter, Ramada Plaza Melaka (formerly Renaissance Melaka) had already shuttered its doors since June last year.

Federal Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Nancy Shukri said as of 31 October 2020, 109 hotel sector operators (which included motels, homestays and chalets) had closed shop for good.

Among the prominent properties that have closed are the G City Club Hotel in Kuala Lumpur (April 30, 2020), The Puteri Pacific in Johor Baru (Aug 30, 2020), and the Holiday Inn Resort (June 30, 2020) in Penang.

Some properties which initially closed but reopened months later include Penang's Jerejak Island Resort, Mercure Penang Beach, and Jazz Hotel. Berjaya Tioman Resort was closed indefinitely from 15 June last year for a major redevelopment.

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