Travellers drawn to cheap prices


  • Nation
  • Sunday, 03 Jul 2016

CHEAPER room rates and the opportunity to “live like a local” are just some of the major draws why some travellers choose home-sharing platforms like Airbnb over hotels.

An analyst, who wishes to be known only as Tong, 31, has been avidly using Airbnb when he goes on holiday since 2014.

“The lower prices for accommodation, especially for larger groups, is what attracts me,” he says, adding that he could save about 20% to 30% compared to booking hotel rooms.

So far, he has used Airbnb to book apartment units for trips to Malacca, Ipoh, Singapore, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur.

On safety concerns, Tong says he looks for positive peer reviews before he confirms the deal to book the apartment unit over the website.

While he is aware that unlike hotels, home-sharing services are not covered by public liability insurance, he says it isn’t a very big concern.

“I see it as a home and homes are usually safe,” he adds.

He says the Government should regulate such home-sharing services if it can strengthen consumer rights and provide recourse for customers in case of any untoward incidents.

“However, if such a move involves licensing and the inclusion of the Goods and Services Tax, the rental fees may end up being the same, or even more than hotel room rates.

“This will then cause such businesses to lose their competitive edge,” Tong points out, adding that he will continue to use such home- sharing services for his travels.

Marilyn Yap, a 34-year-old company manager, says Airbnb offers her the chance to experience “living like a local”.

She adds that there are no significant safety concerns for her in choosing such an option and will continue to use Airbnb if it suits her travel purpose and companions.

Concurring with Yap, company executive Jasmine Li also welcomes renting an apartment via Airbnb so that she can “live life as a local”.

She also cites the low prices offered as an important factor.

“I prefer Airbnb because I can find cheaper accommodation compared to hotels.

“Airbnb offers apartments or studio units, equipped with a kitchenette, living room and other facilities which I can use,” said the 26-year-old, who has used the service during her visits to Taiwan and South Korea.

“Some hosts also provide services which a hotel does not. Sometimes, they hang out with you and answer your questions anytime,” she says.

Li, however, points out that renting a private property also means that there are no services normally offered by a hotel reception.

“A host will not be there to physically standby in case you need help, unlike a hotel. A hotel or guesthouse is also safer as the whole building is under supervision by hotel staff and everyone staying there are tourists,” she admits.

K. Sivanathan, a 25-year-old bank employee, says there are certain facilities offered by Airbnb hosts that are much more affordable than hotels – like Internet access rates.

He says some units also come with better furnishings like DVD players, big screen televisions and even gaming consoles for the benefit of their guests.

“I have no qualms using Airbnb as long as it provides me with a cheaper and more convenient option. The location of the property is also important. If the unit’s location is more strategic than certain hotels and it is cheaper to rent it, then why not?” he says.

Sivanathan, from Kuala Lumpur, also agrees that Airbnb is especially practical for those travelling in groups like families.

But there are also some travellers who are wary of home-sharing services.

One of them is a marketer, who wishes to be known only as Anne.

“I am hesitant to use such services because there is no guaranteed security or safety for the occupants.

“You’ll never know if the home is used for illegal activities. If the owners are still staying there and are offering their spare room, you wouldn’t know if they could be rapists or sex offenders,” says the 31-year-old.

Anne says she will only consider using such services after thorough research and through the recommendation of friends.

“Otherwise, I wouldn’t risk it,” she adds.

While he agrees that Airbnb provides travellers with convenient options, Johan Azhar, 30, says he does ponder over security issues including the possibility of unscrupulous hosts installing spy cameras in rooms.

“When you rent their extra room, the hosts may come home at odd hours and disturb your privacy... and they may even go through your belongings when you are out,” he says.

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