Political will needed to regulate Airbnb, illegal homestays

KOTA KINABALU: Political will is needed to resolve the growing threat of illegal homestays and Airbnb mushrooming around popular tourism areas in Sabah, says a tourism group.

There are many issues related to “outdated, uncovered and grey areas” in the current policies under the law governing homestay and Airbnb operations, said Sabah Tourism Federation president Tonny Chew.

He said there should be a legal framework governing such operations as these illegal homestays could pose a grave danger to the legal operations of registered homestays as well as the tourism industry itself.

“Airbnb and illegal homestays avoid paying tourism tax and other forms of taxes. They can also be prone to public safety issues, among others.

“These illegal operations will discourage investors to invest in hotel and accommodation development in the state,” he said when contacted.

He said homestay and Airbnb operations should be regulated by the local authorities and followed through with tourism regulations.

“We are not asking to ban it, but at least regulate it.

This will benefit all parties,” he added.

Chew said it was difficult to estimate the number of illegal homestay and Airbnb operations in Sabah.

“However, we can see that their numbers are growing,” he said, adding that popular tourist areas such as Kundasang and Kota Kinabalu were seeing an increasing number of such illegal homestay operations.

He said apart from unregulated homestays and Airbnb, the legal industry members were also concerned with unlicensed tour operators and guides operating in the state.

Another issue was the emergence of unlicensed tourist vans popularly known as “white vans”, he added.

Chew said federation members met with state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Christina Liew to highlight these issues.

“The minister is taking this matter seriously as she is aware that it could severely impact our tourism industry,” he said, adding that Liew also raised the issue with her federal counterpart for further action.

The federation is an umbrella group comprising 11 tourism industry players in the state.

They include Sabah Tourist Association (STA), Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA-Sabah Chapter), Persatuan Pemandu Pelancong Berlesen Bumiputera Negeri Sabah (PBB Sabah), Sabah Tourist Guides Association (STGA), Persatuan Homestay Sabah (PHS), Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association (MICA-Sabah chapter), Sabah Backpacker Association (SBA), Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH-Sabah Chapter), Malaysia Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA-Sabah Chapter) and Sabah Hotel Association (SHA).

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