GEORGE TOWN: Business is booming for home-sharing operators in Penang over the long Hari Raya Haji weekend as over half of Penang’s Airbnb inventory were booked.
In contrast, a check showed that hotels rated three stars and below still have vacancies, indicating a major shift in Penang’s hospitality industry that continues to alarm hoteliers.
Full time Airbnb operator S.H. Tan said the 32 units he manages, which can hold four people each, were fully booked until Tuesday.
“I know another operator managing over 100 units. His are all booked too. Many other operators report in our WhatsApp group that they are also fully booked, ” he said.
Tan said he does not own most of the properties, but runs a company that manages short-term or vacation rentals for the property owners.
He said he has done this for several years, taking a 25% cut per rental.
Airbnb’s website states there are over 5, 000 listings in Penang offering accommodation for between two to 10 people.
In The Star’s attempt to rent a unit for four people between Saturday and Sunday, a notice appeared on the website stating that 51% of units for the dates were already booked.
But the scene at hotels was not so rosy, with those including several four star hotels, confirming they still have rooms.
A hotelier with a four-star establishment revealed that his occupancy rate was about 80% on Saturday, and it slipped to about 40% on Sunday.
“I was surprised. People would want to spend two nights in Penang for the long weekend, but we are not getting this trend, ” he said.
Five-star hotels seem to be holding their own with nearly all reporting 90% to 100% occupancy for the season, especially in Batu Ferringhi.
Tan was not surprised when told of the situation.
“You would expect and be able to afford the best of everything if you want five-star service.
“But if you are okay with home-sharing, you would be on the budget side, ” said Tan.
“Book late. Many home-sharing operators will slash their prices close to a holiday season.
“They would rather have it booked with hardly any profit than having no booking at all.
“What is left if you book late may not be the most luxurious choices, but if you want a good price, this is how you do it, ” he said.
A recent renter, Loke See Mun, 28, agreed with this strategy.
“My parents and cousin wanted to come to Penang for the weekend, so I went to booking.com and searched for one just a few days before.
“I found an apartment in Tanjung Tokong for just RM230 a night.
“It was huge and luxurious with a large and fully equipped kitchen!”
“We stayed on the 28th floor and had a fantastic view of the sea.
“My parents never stayed in such a great place before and they were really happy.”