By D KANYAKUMARI / Graphic By TMR
Airbnb, the global hospitality app (application), is open to the possibility of its business being regulated in Malaysia, provided that the regulations are done fairly.
A spokesperson for Airbnb said that rather than enforcing unrealistic rules — including the one-month minimum stay as suggested by certain quarters — the company is keen to work with the government on co-developing fair regulatory frameworks that would allow for home sharing to thrive, while addressing its host city’s specific concerns.
“We have done this successfully with hundreds of governments around the world, and we look forward to continuing our fruitful talks with the Malaysian government, to find a way forward for home sharing in Malaysia that benefits everyone,” the Airbnb spokesperson told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in an emailed reply.
In an earlier TMR report, the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Cheah Swee Hee had called for Airbnb to be regulated and added that it should not be allowed to provide nightly stays.
Cheah argued that hotels had to comply to rigorous conditions while Airbnb is allowed to accommodate guests without the hassle.
He had also said that the growing popularity of Airbnb had affected the hotel business by up to 20%. MAH currently has 1,000 hotels registered under it.
The Airbnb spokesperson said that the company has already been working with policymakers globally to develop clear and common-sense regulations, that not just allow everyone to enjoy and benefit from home sharing, but also ensure the collection of fair tax revenue from the host communities.
“We have done this in over 340 jurisdictions worldwide and Airbnb has voluntarily collected and remitted travel and tourist taxes of over US$$510 million (RM2.09 billion) since 2014.
“We want to do the same in Malaysia, and we look forward to working with the government to ensure that our community pays its fair share of taxes,” the email read.
The spokesperson added that setting a minimum stay of at least a month for Airbnb users, as suggested by certain quarters, is not really practical.
“The reality is that most travellers who come to Malaysia on holiday don’t stay for more than a month.
“That means that a one-month minimum rule would dramatically reduce the benefits that Airbnb had already brought to Malaysia’s local communities and economies,” the spokesperson said.
As it is, the spokesperson said that Airbnb had contributed greatly back to the local communities where the hosts are located.
“Airbnb guests spend a great deal of time and money in the neighbourhoods in which they stay, meaning we’re directly driving footfall and spending to local communities.
“Airbnb hosts keep 97% of the money they charge and this year, a typical host in Malaysia earned US$$1,600, with total host earnings adding up to US$48.1 million (RM196.6 million),” the email stated.
Airbnb added that the contribution gets directly reinvested into local communities, and would risk being lost if the one-month minimum stay is implemented.
Malaysia is one of Airbnb’s fastest growing, markets with the number of guests in 2017 increased by 152% since 2016.
To date, some 2.6 million Malaysians have travelled using Airbnb in the last three years.
“As for the number of inbound guests to Malaysia, it increased massively over the last three years.
“In 2015, there were 193,800 guests to Malaysia with Airbnb, which grew to 641,200 in 2016. This year, that number grew again by 152% to 1.3 million,” the spokesperson added.
Previously, Airbnb had announced a total of 17,270 listings in Malaysia with a growth rate of 130% year-on-year (YoY).
“There has been an inbound guest growth of 248% YoY and an outbound guest growth of 168% YoY. Kuala Lumpur and Penang remain popular with 249% and 201% YoY growth respectively.
“However, we are seeing increasing inbound growth to Lumut, Cameron Highlands, Ipoh and Port Dickson,” the spokesperson said, adding that Airbnb is helping to democratise tourism and encourage people to explore different parts of the country.