Short-term rental has place in tourism


  • Letters
  • Wednesday, 03 Jun 2020

IT is undeniable that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected every one of us, and some more than others. While my experience may not be the same as everyone else, I believe there are many who can relate.

I’m a homeowner and an Airbnb host in Johor. Like many others who are hosting their homes, I have been reading news reports on the impact of Covid-19 on Malaysia’s tourism industry.

I’ve noticed several suggestions by hoteliers for Airbnb to be regulated as well as some extreme calls for it to be banned in Malaysia.

I am sharing my story because I believe it is important for hoteliers and the government to see that short-term rental accommodation hosts are also affected by this global crisis.

I personally don’t believe banning Airbnb will help promote Malaysia’s tourism. Most of our guests stay with us because we are able to meet their requirements, especially if they are traveling as a group or family.

Guests like having options when they travel. By limiting their options, we restrict the pool of people who will consider traveling to Malaysia.

I would like to offer a different perspective since not much light has been shed on the impact of the pandemic on short-term rental accommodation hosts like me.

The occupancy of my listing has dropped from an average of 30% per month to zero since the start of the movement control order (MCO).

From my conversations with other hosts, most of us were already struggling to cover our mortgages, and this was made worse by Covid-19.

Frankly, if it was not for the six-month moratorium, which relieved some of the financial pressures, I would have had to start considering options like foreclosure. As I believe it will take a while for tourism to recover, it would be helpful if home loan rates can be reduced or the moratorium can be extended so that the monthly mortgage becomes more manageable.

With regard to the regulation of short-term rentals, I do agree that it is needed. Most recently, I was happy to read some of the Malaysia Productivity Corporation’s (MPC) guidelines for the government to consider in their published closure report.

It is good to see that MPC considered the struggles faced by homeowners rather than implementing blanket suggestions from hoteliers, as I believe those were tailored more to put a nail in the coffin of short-term rentals. However, I believe that there are further considerations to take into account.

MPC recommended that local authorities be allowed to impose nightcaps in order for short-term rentals to not be a full commercial activity.

However, if our rental is not a full commercial activity, then why should MPC also call for us to register for a business licence? We would be subjected to complex registration processes and taxation despite our income being limited by the nightcaps.

I hope registration will only be enforced once all the related government agencies have the necessary mechanisms in place that will facilitate the hosts’ compliance. Furthermore, there is a large difference between owner hosts and none-owner hosts, a difference that should be considered in any implemented regulation.

There is much talk about how tourism will survive the “new normal”. I strongly believe that we must not ban short-term rental altogether, as it provides greater choice for travellers. We should create an equal playing field so that the Malaysian tourism industry can recover and thrive once again.

MR TAN

Johor

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