Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 28 May 2020

Executive Travel: Efficiency is key at Kuala Lumpur business hotel

Element Kuala Lumpur has witnessed a decline in occupancy due to the coronavirus

Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby of the Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The lobby is on the 40th floor of the Ilham Tower. Courtesy Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lobby of the Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The lobby is on the 40th floor of the Ilham Tower. Courtesy Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Late at night a traveller lands in Kuala Lumpur from the east. In the morning he will be meeting a vendor in the city centre, and in the evening he will fly west for his next appointment. What would this traveller want in a hotel?

Not amenities so much as efficiency.

In this regard the Element Kuala Lumpur, which opened in May 2017 in the Malaysian capital’s core, is a hotel that delivers. And while the spread of coronavirus has curtailed occupancy, hotel management is attempting to use the slowdown constructively.

Our visit started well. Arrival is a point where the late-night traveler wants no hassles in getting from airport to bedroom as smoothly as possible.

I passed through the sliding doors of the airport’s Customs area and into the arrivals hall at 11.21pm. Waiting for me was the yellow-jacketed representative of the limo company the Element had arranged. He walked me to the waiting car and I was on my way by 11.23pm. Then came the 60km drive to the hotel, followed by a quick check-in at the hotel’s 40th-floor lobby, and I was in my room by 12.14pm — an impressive 53 minutes for the whole journey.

The room spanned 40 square metres and was spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows. A desk, a safe, eight sockets (same style as in the UAE), an iron and ironing board, a kettle with tea and coffee sachets: all the mundane necessities were there. The room’s microwave, sink and tableware add a homey touch for longer stays.

The bathroom had a shower but not a tub. The bed was huge (five pillows) and comfortable. The design style was right angles and muted colours.

The light switches were mercifully simple: they turned on and off. Nowadays too many hotels think they are adding value with light-switch panels crammed with options, so that one wastes time merely trying to turn off the lights for bedtime.

One quibble: every time I turned on the master switch for the lights, the television turned on, with “jazzy” welcoming music. This was fine upon arrival though perhaps not essential for a 3am bathroom visit.

Will the hotel buffet become a thing of the past? Courtesy Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Will the hotel buffet become a thing of the past? Courtesy Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Breakfast was good. The buffet had the usual western options, plus local favourites such as nasi goreng and dragonfruit. As Islam is the official religion of Malaysia everything was halal (chicken sausage).

After breakfast I used the gym, with seven aerobic-exercise machines, a free-weight area and a universal-gym area. It’s open 24 hours and also has floor-to-ceiling windows.

Nikie Mok, general manager, said business travellers account for 50 to 60 per cent of the Element’s guests, with about 35 per cent of the total staying for three nights or less. About 15 per cent are on stays of a month or more.

The hotel has five meeting rooms with capacity for about 80 people altogether. By June it should open a ballroom, suitable for conferences, with room for 290 people.

Ms. Mok said the strongest sources of guests by sector are oil & gas, consultancy, and banking; and by foreign country are Singapore, the US, China, South Korea and Japan.

Occupancy is normally around 90 per cent but had fallen to between 50 and 60 per cent at the time of our visit in early March because of coronavirus.

The swimming pool with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of the nearby Petronas Towers. Courtesy Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
The swimming pool with floor-to-ceiling windows offering a view of the nearby Petronas Towers. Courtesy Element Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Ms Mok became the hotel’s general manager three months ago, just as the virus was spreading internationally. She is using this difficult time to improve the Element’s offering, for example by repairing the swimming pool and scheduling staff training sessions. The hotel has increased hand-sanitiser stations, and its cleaning staff were being vigilant about wiping down shared surfaces such as elevator panels. Interviewed on March 9, Ms Mok said that until business returns to normal, the goal is to “just keep the momentum going”.

Element is a Marriott brand with more than 80 locations worldwide, including one in Dubai, and an emphasis on ecology. At the Kuala Lumpur property, plastic water bottles are not provided in the rooms. Instead you can drink the tap water, which is filtered.

A note of local colour: there is a cleaning fee of 1,000 ringgit (Dh833) for eating durian or mangosteen in your room, due to their overpowering odour!

The cost of a room at the Element Kuala Lumpur, booked a month ahead on Expedia, is around $62 a night. My airport pickup cost 340 ringgit including tax and a 50 per cent surcharge as it was late at night. That gets you a comfy Toyota Camry, but you could pay more and get a Mercedes-Benz E or S class.

The hotel’s 252 keys span the 41st to the 53rd floors of Ilham Tower, located on a side street near Petronas Towers. There are plenty of places nearby to eat or grab a coffee.

The writer was a guest of the hotel

Updated: March 19, 2020 02:38 PM

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