KUCHING: The law needs to be changed to better regulate unlicensed hotels across Sarawak, according to the Kuching City South Council (MBKS).
There are presently conflicts between the requirements of different government bodies and the development of the tourism industry, said MBKS public health and licensing committee head Mohd Taufik Abdul Ghani.
“There is definitely a need for a coordinated approach to solve the problem,” Taufik told reporters yesterday after the last MBKS full council meeting for this year.
“There’s a lot of confusion within the sector. Many lodging house operators, when we approached them, asked why homestays are being promoted, and yet both are almost the same business. There are laws we cannot change. That kind of things can only happen at the ministerial level.”
Taufik said the council could not take up the task alone.
“There’s a lot of legislation involved. You have concerns expressed by the Fire and Rescue Department, among other things.”
MBKS mayor James Chan said there were “plenty” of unlicensed hoteliers in the state capital.
“It’s going to take some time to address the problem. On this matter, the Ministry (of Tourism) will want to do a feasibility study, not just for Kuching, but the entire state.”
The large number of unlicensed hotels was highlighted by The Star last June. Back then, disgruntled private sector players lamented that red tape was hampering the applications for permits and approvals.
But the authorities said a large number of unlicensed hoteliers were themselves non-compliant with rules like having enough carparks and fire exits.
The current regulations require councils to give the final clearance before the Registrar of Companies can issue business licences.
According to people in the know, they say the problem does not lie specifically with local councils, but the councils have become the scapegoat.
Sarawak Tourism Federation president Audry Wan Ullok yesterday told The Star she was cautiously optimistic that the solving of the matter was moving in the right direction.
“We don’t want to point fingers, but will continue to highlight the matter. We still hope the matter will be resolved as soon as possible in the best interest of Sarawak’s tourism industry,” Audry said.
The federation had gathered the operators off several unlicensed premises in recent months, she said.
“We listened to their grouses, complaints and suggestions, and we’ve highlighted the information to the Tourism Ministry and to the councils.”
It was in the Government’s interest to get as many illegal hotels licensed quickly, since premises that were illegal were not paying taxes, she added.