Malaysia nears South-East Asia’s first nationwide Airbnb control

KUALA LUMPUR, June 20 (Bloomberg): Malaysia is inching closer to becoming the first country in South-East Asia to impose widespread curbs on short-stay rentals like Airbnb Inc., after one of its most popular holiday hotspots restricted such accommodation due to unruly tourists.

The nation had been looking into regulating short-term rentals for several years due to complaints about rowdy tourists behaving badly in residential areas, but the discussion gained renewed impetus in recent weeks after the island of Penang slapped a partial ban on Airbnb and similar services. The rules, which will still allow serviced apartments, are due to come into force on March 1, 2024.

While Malaysia is one of several countries that Airbnb is in discussions with over moves to restrict short-stay rentals, it is "closest to the finishing line,” Mich Goh, the company’s head of public policy for Southeast Asia, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said at a briefing in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday.

Read more: Rowdy Tourists Spark Partial Airbnb Ban on Malaysian Island

Airbnb has called for balanced regulations rather than outright bans and pointed to the contribution short-term rentals make to local economies.

In a survey commissioned by the San Francisco-based company, 82% of Malaysians said Airbnb allows locals to generate additional income and 67% said renting through the platform has a positive impact on their community. Three-quarters of respondents said Malaysians should be allowed to rent out vacant apartments amid the nation’s property overhang.

"It is critical that STRA is regulated in a balanced and effective way that enables, instead of restricting, Malaysia’s long-term tourism growth,” Goh said.

Kuala Lumpur was Airbnb’s most visited city in South-East Asia last year, and one of the most searched destinations worldwide. - Bloomberg

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