Uneven playing field biggest issue in short-stay industry

By NUR HAZIQAH A MALEK / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Price war and uneven playing field are among the major issues in the lucrative short-stay industry, according to industry players.

SuperiorWealth Group founder and CEO Dr Alan Poon (picture) said the aforementioned issues are spurred from the convergence of multiple “roads” or methods that represent the hospitality players present in Malaysia.

“Take the kampung road, which represents traditional homestays, the usual road, which made up of hoteliers, and lastly the highway, which represents Airbnb, Booking.com, or so to say, the disruptors.

“And when these roads converge, there will be a big space, but no matter how big that space is, it will be crowded. Much like the famous Shibuya crossing,” he said at the HostAStay Short-Stay Summit last week.

“Not only that, there is the heightened public nuisance and no comfort zones for everyone because it gets crowded in the space, as well as the rise of security issues and threats. Finally, there is also the perceived chaos or directionless of the industry,” he said.

“As is, the hoteliers are calling the accommodation providers like Airbnb a disruptor of the industry, while the rest may call hoteliers or traditional homestays as ‘old-school’, and personally, I don’t think it’s a good view,” he added.

The Malaysian Reserve previously reported that the government was urged to abolish the tourism tax as local hotel operators were hoping to get an even playing field with accommodations offered on Airbnb.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture made it compulsory for properties listed on Airbnb to be registered, but the registration method requires adjustments and is currently undergoing discussions.

He added that as players of the industry which is first experienced by tourists and travellers, there should not be a complete reliance on the government to do everything.

“We don’t want to be completely self-regulated because chances are there will be issues along the way, but to be overly regulated, the scene might end up being too strict on us,” he said.

He said among the plausible solutions that industry players can adopt is the consolidation of a short-term accommodation association.

“There’s also forming a regulatory body or council, and arranging as well as encouraging summits, conferences, education think-tanks involvement in the industry and lastly, to make the industry community-centric, versus commercial-centric,” he said.

HostAStay CEO and founder Jordan Oon said the short-term accommodation needs to prioritise its community and nearby bodies instead of competing with each other.

“Take for example that there are restaurants and local shops nearby the accommodation, we should be promoting them as hosts, instead of pitting them against each other,” he said.

He added that the industry is currently not profitable because of the price war between certain accommodations.

“In the hospitality industry, there is no average, because when you see two hotels side by side, one will be fully booked, while the other isn’t,” he said.

Oon said according to Airbnb’s statistics, the hospitality industry’s average is very low and is only going much lower as at least 40% of the hosts are not generating any income.

“Meanwhile, the ones that are performing are generating very high incomes. Some of them have gone from hosting for short-stay accommodation properties to hotels,” he said.

He added that by hosting the Short-Stay Summit, he is calling out players in the industry to get involved and invite more new hosts to stir the pot.

“This summit was initially intended for August, but considering that we will be having HostAStay annual dinner tonight, we had to make it.

“And with this summit now established, we hope that there will be more hosts to join the industry that was once lucrative and hopefully this summit will not be exclusive for us,” he said.

HostPlatform, a management mobile application for hosts, was also launched last Friday.

HostPlatform GM Jayden Lee said among the most recurring concerns for the hosts and clients was double booking, whereby two separate clients booked one of a host’s property at the same time.

“HostPlatform was designed for hosts to be able to manage and have a greater view of their properties because all the main booking sites have been integrated into it, therefore, the chances of double booking are much lower,” he said.

He added that the application is meant to be synonymous with “responsible tourism”.

“The human touch cannot be replaced when checking someone in, and hosts should be focused on providing the best hospitality experience possible. HostPlatform allows them to do just that by eliminating tedious tasks,” he said.

Oon said the application was created by internal sources of hosts, and thus was established on a business-to-business-to-client model.

“This was created by hosts for hosts, so that clients may have a more streamlined experience,” he said.