Wanting to be like ‘locals’ makes Airbnb attractive to foreign tourists

Malaysia’s attraction and influx of foreigners and locals have boosted the revenues of the thousands of hosts in the country

By LYDIA NATHAN

Airbnb is an unstoppable force. Similar to Grab for public driven taxis, Airbnb is gaining traction, creating competition to hotels and other forms of accommodations.

Authorities are also finding it difficult to put some rules on the global phenomena. In Kuala Lumpur alone, there are more than 300 homes that are being listed on Airbnb website.

Georgetown, Penang, which has always been a tourist destination, has more than 300 accommodations, based on a quick search on the Airbnb website.

Despite the rue from hotels, the Airbnb explosion is helping to woo tourists to Malaysia.

The online accommodation platform said based on 2017’s data, Malaysia welcomed tourists from 176 countries via the home-sharing facility.

Airbnb also said foreigners to Malaysia and locals prefer to experience a more authentic holiday within the country.

Airbnb

Airbnb says foreigners to Malaysia and locals prefer to experience a more authentic holiday within the country (Pic by Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

Airbnb head of public policy for South-East Asia Mich Goh said the strong numbers last year showed that local and foreign tourists desire to live like locals and experience the culture first-hand, with 84% of the platform’s guests said they used Airbnb because they wanted to be like locals.

“Our strong numbers in 2017 reflect an increasing desire for local and authentic travel within Malaysia, among both foreign and domestic tourists.

“As Malaysia continues to grow as a popular tourist destination, Airbnb is dedicated to empowering local hospitality entrepreneurs and supporting healthy community growth, through our global platform and philosophy of people-powered travel,” said Goh.

Malaysia’s attraction and influx of foreigners and locals have boosted the revenues of the thousands of hosts in the country.

According to Airbnb, with over 31,900 listings in Malaysia, a typical host earned RM5,200 by renting out their spaces for 18 nights a year.

“Our hosts in Malaysia welcomed more than five million guests last year. This represents an impressive 137% year-over-year growth in guest arrivals, the highest growth rate among our key South-East Asian markets,” Airbnb said.

Among the main cities that saw the highest number of guests included Kuala Lumpur with host earnings up to RM6,900 for 32 nights a year. The platform has provided accommodation to 510,000 guests.

Hosts in Georgetown raked in an average of RM10,900 for 29 nights, accommodating 210,000 guests last year, while Johor Baru saw 130,000 guests delivering RM5,000 for 17 nights.

According to data compiled by the platform, 89% of the guests chose Airbnb as it is conveniently located throughout the city, with 44% said they were spending money in the neighbourhoods they were staying at.

The platform also allowed them to save some money and spend on other trip expenses.

“Fifty-three percent of guests spent the money they saved using Airbnb at businesses in the cities and neighbourhoods they visited and 66% of guests said the environmental benefits of home-sharing were important in their choice of Airbnb,” Airbnb said.

A local daily has previously reported that Cleantech Group found Airbnb homes consumed less energy than traditional accommodation per guest by 63%, as well as produced lower greenhouse gas emissions by 61%.

Airbnb said 88% of Airbnb hosts around the world incorporate green practices into hosting, such as using green cleaning products, providing recycling, encouraging guests to use public transportation and installing solar panels.

Meanwhile, Airbnb said they launched the “Office of Healthy Tourism”, a global initiative aimed at driving local, authentic and sustainable tourism in countries and cities across the globe.

“With travel and tourism growing faster than most of the rest of economy, it is critical that as many people as possible are benefitting — and right now not all tourism is created equal.

“To democratise the benefits of travel, Airbnb offers a healthy alternative to the mass travel that has plagued cities for decades,” said Airbnb’s global head of policy and communications Chris Lehane.

Goh said the Tourism Advisory Board has some of the foremost leaders in the travel industry.

“These are all leaders with impeccable credentials who have worked to promote healthy tourism. We look forward to working with them to develop solutions to over tourism, and tap into their expertise to promote and drive healthy tourism around the world,” Goh said.

A number of initiatives have already been implemented to promote healthy tourism, namely the listing of Yoshino Cedar House in Japan and rural regeneration projects in small villages in Italy and China.

Simultaneously, they also announced the creation of its new Tourism Advisory Board, saying they want to expand its efforts to economically empower communities, drive travel to lesser-known areas, and sup- port environmentally-friendly travel habits with the Office of Healthy Tourism.

The World Travel and Tourism Council said the travel industry supports 313 million jobs worldwide, generating 10% of the gross domestic product.

Airbnb Tourism Advisory Board member David Scowsil said by 2030, one billion more people will be considered middle class, and will look to travel to enhance and broaden horizons.

“The concentration of tourism in key locations is creating a threat to their future, by causing congestion, overcrowding and a deteriorating quality of life for residents.”

“By bringing guests to new places and putting more money in the hands of local residents, Airbnb has proven to be a pioneer. Spreading the tourists around each city and each country geographically is an important step to solving this overcrowding problem,” he said.

More laws and regulations are expected to be introduced to govern hosts, and such Airbnb accommodations, and authorities are expected to put some form of levies due to the rising interest for such homes. But, the rise of Airbnb is not expected to be dented and is far from being diminished.