PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (Mybha) intends to improve the competitiveness of budget hotels in the country, as the sector continues to face stiff competition from online booking platforms such as Airbnb.
Mybha national deputy president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said the association recently organised a trade mission comprising 83 of its members to the China Hospitality Expo in Guangzhou, China, which proved invaluable.
“This initiative taken by Mybha is to help our members find the proper channels to be able to refurbish their hotels at a lower cost. With the right partners and by eliminating the middleman, this can be achieved, ” he told StarBiz in an interview.
“At the expo, we also signed a memorandum of understanding with a logistics partner.”
Ganesh said the deal will assist its members to purchase furniture and fittings at cheaper rates.
“It will also provide confidence to hoteliers who wish to purchase from China. We also had 21 Muslim members on the trade mission and it helped change their perception about China and doing business there, as many thought that it was a non-Muslim-friendly nation.”
Ganesh said the trade mission to China was also aimed at creating more awareness of Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020).
“The trade mission was also timely because of VMY2020 next year. Malaysia is a hub for tourists before they go to other destinations in the region, such as Singapore or Thailand.
“Therefore, we need to create more publicity on what Malaysia has to offer.”
Mybha currently comprises around 2,000 members, consisting of hotels that are rated three-stars and below.
Ganesh said the industry is currently facing stiff competition from online booking platforms such as Airbnb, which are the preferred choice for many budget travellers because such establishments are excluded from any form of taxes and therefore, cheaper to stay in.
“We cannot fight the advancement of technology, but we want is a level playing field.
“All we want is for them (the Airbnb outlets) to be taxed and regulated. By not imposing any sort of tax on them, the government is losing out on a lot of revenue.
“Furthermore, because they aren’t regulated, security can become an issue, not only for the Airbnb operators, but also their neighbours. When news of this gets out, it scares tourists away and affects the entire hospitality industry, ” he said.
According to an Airbnb survey in July, of more than 2,000 Malaysian hosts and guests, half of the Airbnb hosts said it had helped them pay for their homes while 40% said Airbnb provided a supplementary income for them to make ends meet.
Malaysia is Airbnb’s fastest growing country in South-East Asia for the second consecutive year.
It saw more than 3.25 million guests in Malaysia over the past 12 months ended July 1, which translated to a 73% increase from the previous period. There are more than 53,000 Airbnb listings in the country.
For 2019, Mybha Kuala Lumpur chapter chairman Kenneth Oh said the budget hotel industry has been challenging.
“Our members are struggling to survive as occupancy rates have dropped. We expect the sector to remain challenging going into next year.”
Mybha Johor chapter chairman Jarod Chia said the association is in constant talks with the government but added that no action had been taken.
“It is difficult for us to support our members if the government doesn’t intervene, ” he said.
Separately, at the association’s AGM recently, Ganesh said Mybha had received approval from board members to change its name to the Malaysia Business and Budget Hotel Association.
“We decided to change the name to revamp our image.
“When people think ‘budget hotel’ many think that it is low class. But that is not the case. Our hotels are up to standard and we want to create more awareness of that, ” he said.
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