AS more Malaysians open their homes to tourists, Airbnb describes Malaysia as an “exciting growth market”.
Nevertheless, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company also encourages hosts to familiarise themselves with regulations in their area.
“These can differ from council to council and even street to street, all over the world,” Airbnb tells Sunday Star in an email.
Despite the growth of Airbnb across Malaysia, the company says the traditional hotel sector continues to do well too, with growth in occupancy and room rates.
“We’re proud of the economic benefits Airbnb provides to families, communities and local businesses that otherwise wouldn’t benefit from the tourist dollar,” it says.
Overwhelmingly, Airbnb says its hosts are renting out their homes occasionally, earning a little extra to help supplement their income.
“The vast majority of our hosts across Malaysia are everyday people renting their spare room or home occasionally, not commercial operators,” it adds.
Airbnb also says it has a good working relationship with the Malaysian Government and have partnered with it in the past.
In December last year, it was reported that a pilot project was being conducted in Malacca involving 130 homestays in 11 villages to help them market their business using online listings.
The programme was a collaboration between the Multimedia Development Corporation, the International Trade and Industry Ministry, the Tourism and Culture Ministry and Airbnb.
Airbnb says over 80 million guests have had a safe, positive experience using the platform.
“We help promote positive experiences through a global trust and safety team available 24/7, authentic reviews, verified profile information, and the $1 Million Host Guarantee,” it says.
A check on its website showed that the Host Guarantee will reimburse eligible hosts for damages up to A$1mil (RM3.06mil).
“The Host Guarantee should not be considered a replacement or stand-in for homeowners or renters insurance,” read the website.
Airbnb also has a refund policy for guests if the host fails to provide reasonable access to the booked listing, the listing booked is misrepresented or isn’t generally clean or unsafe, among others.
“Airbnb’s community operates on the principles of trust and respect. Our host and guest review systems demonstrate our commitment to responsible behaviour,” it says.
Meanwhile, some local Airbnb hosts in Malaysia have mixed views about the idea of having the Government regulate their business.
A full-time Airbnb host in Malacca, known only as Chen, says she welcomes such a move as long as it is done fairly and does not overly restrict the business.
“It can be beneficial for both the hosts and guests.
“If we are given licences by the Government, we can even put up signages to advertise our business. And for guests, they would have more protection,” says the 30-year-old lass who rents out one apartment and two townhouses.
Chen, a former marketing manager, quit her job two years ago to become a full-time Airbnb host, calling it her “interest and passion”.
She denies having any opposition from her neighbours in renting out her properties to tourists.
“I informed my neighbours before doing this. While they were initially doubtful, they are now happy I have guests,” Chen adds.
And in the event the Government decides to ban such services, Chen says hosts like herself will transform and adapt to the situation.
“This is the global trend and many are using this business model now. It is important to stay competitive and adapt to the times,” she says.
Another full-time host, Ridzuan Effendy, 29, hopes the Government does not impose regulations on Airbnb.
“Home-sharing services aren’t the same as hotels. Many tourists use Airbnb because the prices are cheaper compared to hotels.
“It is a case of having a willing buyer and seller. It shouldn’t be illegal,” says the former engineer, who lists his properties in Kuala Lumpur.