#TECH: Attracting digital nomads to Malaysia

IN a world altered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of work has evolved. Traditional office spaces have given way to remote work setups, enabling individuals to escape the confines of their cubicles and seek new experiences while they earn a living.

As this new era of work and wanderlust takes hold, Airbnb and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) have joined hands to create a groundbreaking initiative, DE Rantau, to make Malaysia a haven for digital nomads. This strategic collaboration is set to reshape the way we travel, work and experience Malaysia's vibrant culture.

The rise of remote work has birthed a generation of digital nomads — professionals who use technology to work from anywhere in the world. With this lifestyle shift, the desire for immersive, extended travel experiences has grown.

In response to this trend, Airbnb and MDEC have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish Malaysia as a preferred hub for digital nomads in the Asia-Pacific region. The goal is to extend stays and promote travel across the country, fostering a stronger connection between travellers and local communities.

Revolutionising remote work

The collaboration couldn't have come at a better time. The pandemic catalysed the transition to remote work, and as the post-pandemic dust settles, remote work has become a lasting trend.

According to an Oxford Economics study commissioned by Airbnb, long-term stays (28 nights or more) in Airbnb accommodations across the Asia-Pacific region have increased from 7.7 per cent in 2019 to 11.6 per cent this year.

In Malaysia, long-term stay nights grew from 11.6 per cent to an impressive 18.6 per cent of total guest nights booked by international visitors from 2019 to last year. Notably, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Johor Baru emerged as the top three destinations for long-term stays last year.

Through this partnership, Airbnb and MDEC aim to identify and promote more than 600 digital nomad-friendly DE Rantau Hub listings on Airbnb. These listings, located in key tourist hotspots like Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Penang and Langkawi, are equipped with amenities tailored for digital nomads. Dedicated workspaces, reliable WiFi, fully equipped kitchens and laundry facilities ensure that these spaces are ideal for stays lasting a month or more.

Making it easy for travellers

To further entice digital nomad travellers to explore Malaysia, Airbnb has launched a dedicated landing page,, showcasing all MDEC-certified DE Rantau Hub listings. This platform serves as a window to the allure of Malaysia as a digital nomad-friendly destination, shedding light on the advantages of the MDEC DE Rantau Pass.

Airbnb's commitment to the cause doesn't stop there. The platform has introduced a global Guide for Hosts, offering insights into transforming their spaces into long-term stay havens.

Workshops for Malaysian Hosts will also be conducted, focusing on DE Rantau and the latest digital nomad travel trends.

MDEC chief executive officer Mahadhir Aziz expressed his enthusiasm for the collaboration, saying: "This collaboration exemplifies our unwavering commitment to driving digital transformation and enriching the digital economy.

"The partnership aligns with Malaysia's aspirations to be a leader in the digital nomad realm, and the potential economic impact is significant." Through this initiative, he said, Malaysia aimed to shape a future where work and life coexisted in harmony, bringing new vigour to its economy.

Airbnb Asia-Pacific director of public policy Steven Liew said the company was excited to partner with MDEC on this digital-first initiative and welcome its host community to the growing national ecosystem supporting digital nomads and remote workers across Malaysia.

"This collaboration speaks to a broader narrative of empowering local communities and destinations through inclusive travel,"

Impact of short-term rentals

ClearPath Strategies' recent survey commissioned by Airbnb echoes Malaysians' optimism about the DE Rantau initiative.

An impressive 75 per cent of Malaysians polled believe that Airbnb is beneficial for remote workers and long-term stays. Furthermore, 60 per cent of respondents recognise the positive impact of short-term rental accommodations in suburban neighbourhoods and local tourism revenues.

With a commitment to responsible hosting and guest behaviour, Airbnb has introduced enhanced reservation screening technology to mitigate the risk of disruptive incidents on the platform. Additionally, a comprehensive set of ground rules for guests ensures harmonious stays. A strata building toolkit will soon be rolled out to Malaysian hosts, promoting responsible hosting in strata buildings.

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