It’s safer in the long run

The long and short of it: A signboard discouraging short-term stays at an apartment complex in Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: From installing water sprinklers to the type of bricks used, hotel operators have made their case on why licensed accommodation is safer.

The Malaysia Budget & Business Hotel Association (MyBHA), in voicing its relief over newly announced rules on the use of high-rise homes for short-term stay on Penang island, said hotels had to comply with a long list of requirements to make sure their guests are safe.

Explaining the fire preventive measures taken, MyBHA president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel said:

“Even the bricks used for hotel room walls must be rated as fire-retardant, so that they won’t crumble in the heat.”

As for hotel room doors, he said they need to be able to resist fire for up to two hours.

He also explained the need to install a water sprinkler system throughout the hotel, depending on the number of rooms.

Hotels, he said, must also abide by rules which spelt out the number of fire extinguishers at specific distances apart.

“And the whole fire prevention system in the hotel must be inspected every three months,” he said yesterday.

Sri Ganesh’s comments were in reference to last Thursday’s announcement by the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) about rules governing owners of high-rise homes on Penang island who want to offer short-term stays.

The rules, which were gazetted earlier this year, stated that these high-rise home owners must obtain approval from the management committee (MC) or joint management body (JMB) through an annual general meeting with more than 75% of the votes.

They must pay a fee of RM250 to RM500 to the MC or JMB, plus a security deposit of RM1,000 to RM3,000 and provide details of every short-term rental they get.

Each short-term stay reservation cannot exceed three days in a row. And these homes can only be rented for a maximum of 180 days a year.

Besides registering with the MBPP, these unit owners must also register their short-term stay businesses with the Companies Commission of Malaysia.

Sri Ganesh said the association applauded the Penang government for being the first state in Malaysia to regulate short-term stay.

“It will help to restore the hospitality and tourism industry in Penang in addition to increasing the government’s taxable income and hotel fees collection,” he said. He also said that controlling the use of homes as short-term stay premises would have an indirect effect of keeping home rentals affordable for residents.

“If homes can be freely used to operate short-term stay, rent can go up and this will make it difficult for Penangites to rent homes in good locations,” he said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Penang chapter chairman Tony Goh said hoteliers in Penang welcomed the state government’s initiative and hoped for more regulations for short-term stay.

“Penang is the first and it’s a good start,” he said.

However, he said there were still areas to address at the federal and state levels on matters linked to standards rating, safety and security, and taxes, among others.

Malaysia Homestay Operators Association Penang president Lydia Tan Woi Kee voiced support for the regulations as disputes between residents and operators are a long-standing issue.

“By differentiating and separating homestay from private apartments, complaints from residents can be reduced and homestay guests can enjoy a peaceful stay,” she said.

She, however, pointed out that the 180-day cap would impact both operators and tourists, as operators are paying maintenance fee for the building the whole year but only operate for about half of that duration.

“This may cause homestay rental charges to go up,” she said.

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