JOHOR BARU: With less than three weeks to Chinese New Year, many restaurants and hotels here are seeing more bookings than last year.

Phua Kai Hoo, owner of three restaurants in Johor Baru and Kulai, said about 60% of the tables in his restaurants had been booked for the eve of Chinese New Year.

“This is a significant improvement over last year when we only managed to fill half of the tables in my three outlets.

“At the moment, it’s 60% but I believe all tables will be snapped up in the next three weeks,” he told The Star.

However, business still does not match pre-pandemic levels when 70% and 80% of the tables would be booked a month before CNY, he added.

“For now, it looks like things are improving, but I am not sure if it will be as good as pre-pandemic times.

“Due to the increase in the price of ingredients, we also have to absorb most of the extra cost for the preparation of meals.

“We are only increasing the price of the dinner package by about 10% and absorbing the rest of the extra cost,” said Phua, whose CNY reunion dinner packages are priced between RM800 and RM1,200 per table.

Another restaurant owner, Colin Tan, said he had recorded 70% bookings for his restaurant here.

He said they raised their price by about 10% only, adding that anything more would drive away customers.

“We hope to see the restaurant fully booked this year to cover the extra cost we have to bear due to the rising cost of living,” he added.

Tan’s restaurant offers the CNY reunion dinner package at RM1,498 for 10 people.

Meanwhile, the general manager of a resort in Skudai, Sunny Soo, said about half of the tables at his restaurant had been booked so far.

“In terms of rooms, we have already received about 60% bookings.

“I expect to get more nearer the festival as people tend to make their reservations at the last minute,” he said.

The Chinese New Year Eve dinner package at the hotel’s restaurant is going for RM1,488 this year – an increase of about 10% compared with last year.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor chapter chairman Ivan Teo said hotels and restaurants were looking forward to a significant increase in business this year.

“In the past two years, people were unable to celebrate the festival fully and restaurant operators were unsure if they should remain open, with the strict SOP (standard operating procedures) back then,” he said.

“This year, things are finally getting back to normal and many are excited to celebrate the occasion.”

So optimistic is Teo that he even thinks that it is possible for hotels and restaurants to rack up higher sales this CNY than before the pandemic.

The first day of CNY this year falls on Jan 22.