KUCHING: A new breed of shopping mall known as hybrid mall is making its presence in the city. According to C H Williams Talhar Wong & Yeo Sdn Bhd (WTWY), there is an anticipated increase in hybrid malls in the next few years.

A hybrid mall, it explains, is in the form of shops built around an open-air centre court with shared common facilities, such as walkways, stairs/escalators and toilets, akin to a street mall.

 “A few of such retail types would be The Emporium along Jalan Tun Jugah which opened in Q2 2018,and the up and coming Tropics City Mall at Jalan Song,Aeroville at Stutong Baru,Gala City Street Mall, The Forum etc.

“Innovation and creativity would be essential for survivor,” said  WTWY in its “Sarawak Property Market: 2018 Property Market Review and Outlook” report released recently.

Reviewing the performance of the Kuching retail sector in 2018, the leading property consultant said it continued to be subdued, adding that it was a challenging year in terms of maintaining occupancies.

Last year, the AEON Mall in Central Park is the only mall in the city that opened for business.

“The increased supply of retail space in recent years, coupled with the recent economic slow-down has adversely affected performance, with lower transactions and occupancies translating into stagnant sale prices and lower asking rentals hovering around RM13.00 psf on average.

 “There was some retail buzz during the mid-year as brisk sales were conducted throughout the retail malls to cash in on the tax holiday period between June and August,” said the report.

In Bintulu, the retail market, according to WTWY, is expected to face pressure due to increasing competition from new supply.

“Newly completed projects, such as Paragon Street Mall, Commerce Square Mall, Times Square Mall and the upcoming malls, namely Crown Pacific Mall,  The Spring Mall and Boulevard mixed development will add substantial retail spaces to the market. 

 “These developments could strain the take-up and occupancy rates.

 “All said, malls located in prime locations with good access and road linkages would be the ones doing well,” it added.

In Sibu, the report said the retail market there is slightly optimistic, banking on the proposed development of the Sibu Transportation hub.

“The retail market is Miri was subdued as the local economy softened. Reduction in rental rate of retail properties is probable in 2019,” said WTWY.

 On the hotel sector, the report said: “The Kuching hotel sector continued to hold stable for 2018,with room rates and average occupancies remaining generally unchanged.”

 It said the 21st edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival which drew the highest ever number of visitors surpassing 20,000 last year, had boosted the occupancies of hotels in and around the city.

 “With the increased promotion of Sarawak as a travel destination for adventure, culture and eco-tourism, Kuching will benefit as the gateway to other parts of Sarawak.

 “ Four-star and five-star hotels continue to face competition from budget and boutique hotels as well as alternative accommodation, such as B&B, homestays etc.

 “Even for resort areas, there are optional lodgings of late, such as culverts, tents, bunkers and other camping ground styles for a closer encounter with nature.”

 In 2018,the Riverside Majestic Hotel opened its premier wing, offering 268 rooms in the city’s golden triangle.

 The hotel sector would also see the addition of another 182 guest rooms at the halal-certified Tabung Haji Hotel, located opposite the Kuching International Airport, by this year. In Bintulu, the report said the hotel market there would remain satisfactory in the near future, with the average occupancy rate hovering at about 50 percent.

New hotels completed in 2017 include Nu Hotel (210 rooms) and Green Hotel (160 rooms). Proposed hotels under construction would contribute another 160 rooms within one and two years.

 “Looking further ahead, 9 hotel projects in the pipeline are estimated to inject an additional 1,100 rooms into the market. By then,the anticipation is that occupancy rate and possibly the room rate would be affected by competition,” said WTWY.  In Miri, the hotel business has the support of Bruneians, who lead tourist arrivals in Sarawak.

 “Miri,being the most vibrant city closest to Brunei, is benefitting from its geographical advantage to capture tourists from Brunei.

 “Concentration of commercial activities will continue to influence the location preference of hotel operators and tourists. About 725 of the hotels in Miri are located within the urban-city, offering two-thirds of hotel rooms (66.2%) in Miri,” according to WTWY.

Over to Sibu, a purpose built hotel project is in the pipeline in the town outskirts near to Star Mega Mall.

 “The tourism sector in Sibu has always been modest. However, the observation is that developer-owners are bringing in hotel components to complement their commercial property,” said the report.