Homestays, home-sharing platform seek govt solution and support

Airbnb has joined other industry players in urging the Malaysian government to consider including tourism entrepreneurs involved in the industry through new business models and platforms

by HARIZAH KAMEL/ pic credit: Airbnb

THE Covid-19 outbreak has caused travel restrictions and disruptions, directly impacting the tourism sector which include homestays and home-sharing platform like Airbnb.

Unlike homestays, Airbnb serves as a marketplace where hosts can list their homes as accommodations, but it is not part of Tourism Malaysia’s homestay/kampungstay programme.

An Airbnb spokesperson recently told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that Airbnb has joined other industry players in urging the Malaysian government to consider including tourism entrepreneurs involved in the industry through new business models and platforms.

These include individuals who are hosting short-term rental accommodation or providing local activities through the Internet.

“For context, Airbnb’s community generated an estimated RM3 billion in direct economic impact to Malaysia in 2018, with senior hosts who are above 60 years earning RM9 million in that year alone.

“Many of these entrepreneurs have made business decisions and investments in fixed assets, and the extension of stimulus measures to include this group of affected individuals would help support them- selves during the pandemic,” he said.

He noted that to protect their health and that of others, people are being cautious about outdoor activities.

This has propelled Airbnb to launch the Airbnb Online Experiences as a new way for people to connect and travel virtually during this time, with an array of different experiences taking place online and led by hosts from around the world.

“We remain committed to Malaysia and will work collaboratively with the government and local communities to ensure a sustainable growth of short-term accommodation, as well as the recovery of the local tourism industry,” he said.

Additionally, the company is making investments to strengthen and grow its business in the post-pandemic world.

To build on its strong track record of cleanliness, Airbnb recently announced its Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, which includes the first overarching standardised protocol for cleaning and sanitisation in the home-sharing industry.

“We have also updated our policies to allow guests to cancel eligible reservations for a full refund to minimise non-essential travels and created a Covid-19 resource hub where people can find the information they need,” he added.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Kampungstay and Homestay Association (MKHA) VP Kohadie Watiman said as per instructions, all their homestay operations have been fully closed since March 18.

“So, to this day, even though other accommodations may be open, our homestays remain closed. We are now waiting for the government’s approval as we still have no directive to open.

“When we are authorised to start operating again, we have to adhere to the standard operating procedure (SOP),” he told TMR.

He said during the Movement Control Order, there was no income for those who solely rely on their homestay business, and that they had to lean on their savings to buy food and other necessities.

Kohadie noted that even though there is not much that they can do, MKHA members must clean, maintain and make improvements to their homestays, so that they can reassure customers in the future.

“Covid-19 will be around for a long time, but when the time comes, certain business operations will be opened with guaranteed SOPs.

“We hope there is a solution to recover the tourism industry as soon as possible. Although it may not fully recover, at least there is a solution,” he added.

(Paragraph 3 has been amended for correctness and clarity based on the input by the related shareholder.)