M'sian hotel association questions Airbnb claim of 3 million guests

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 03 Jul 2019

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) has questioned Airbnb’s claim about having served over three million guests, generating some RM3bil in direct economic impact for the country in the past year.

“The calculation basis of such claims of economic impact were not revealed,” said MAH chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng.

On Airbnb’s claim that there were currently 53,000 accommodation listing in Malaysia, up from 44,000 last year, he said the figure was a “staggering and worrying 21% of legitimate hotels”.

“In comparison, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has a registration database of only about 250,000 hotel rooms nationwide,” he said in a statement Wednesday (July 3).

It was reported on Tuesday (June 2) that Airbnb South-East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan general manager Mike Orgill said the company served over 3.25 million guests in the last 12 months (July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2019), a jump of 73% year-on-year.

He also said the host-guest community had generated approximately RM3bil in estimated direct economic impact in Malaysia last year – where much of its growth was powered by travellers who sought unique and authentic local experiences.

Currently, he claimed Airbnb had 53,000 accommodation listing in Malaysia and over six billion listings globally, and that Malaysia continued to be the fastest-growing country for Airbnb in South-East Asia for the second year running.

Orgill also reportedly urged the government to provide a clearer guideline on tourism tax for its type of business, following confusion on registration and tax collection.

Pointing out that the online hospitality service brokerage company did not register itself in Malaysia, Yap said Airbnb should be cooperative with industry effort to regulate home-sharing.

“Despite boasting about Malaysia being the fastest-growing country for its business, Airbnb did not offer to register itself as a business entity in Malaysia.

“Instead, Orgill questioned the registration process mooted by the ministry and did not hand over details of the hosts listed on its platform, which is easily available,” he said.

Calling out Orgill and Airbnb for being “ignorant of Malaysian laws”, Yap said there were concerns over the admission by some home-sharing owners that they collected the tourism tax themselves before submitting to the authorities.

“Such mechanism does not exist for homes.

"The Customs Department does not allow individuals to collect the tax freely.

“The hotel industry has to comply with multiple laws to ensure the players, tourists and the country are protected for the industry’s sustainability and growth,” he said.

Yap also noted that it was “rare” for Airbnb, which has no legal foothold and paid no taxes in Malaysia, to demand fair treatment on taxes and a level-playing field for all industry players.

“It has been MAH’s objective for a level-playing field for everyone, where every stakeholder contributes to the industry subject to the same terms, laws and taxes.

“Perhaps Airbnb can start by reimbursing the taxes to the government over the billions they claimed to have generated over the past few years,” he said.

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