Most Airbnb homeowners or main tenants rent out rooms for long- or short-term stays. FILE PIC

MALAYSIA Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) president P.K. Leong said the budget hotel business has taken a nosedive.

This is in contrast with the statement issued by Airbnb head of public policy for Southeast Asia Mich Goh, who claimed that with Airbnb’s growth, hotels were healthier than ever.

Airbnb deserves applause for providing a platform for millions of people to open up their homes to visitors for stays.

Budget-conscious guests are drawn by lower rates charged at private residences, where overheads are minimal. Payments received by the hosts defray costs for maintaining a house or apartment or alleviate rental charges that main tenants must bear.

The bonus comes when visitors and hosts click, and such experiences are priceless.

This concept is not new. For decades, students in exchange programmes stayed with host parents to immerse themselves in a foreign culture.

In 1995, the then Tourism and Culture Ministry launched the homestay programme, which required the participation of at least 10 houses in a kampung, with bigger ones involving several villages.

Nationwide, there were 199 homestay clusters — participated by 3,878 homes — offering 5,445 rooms.

Registered homeowners received 240,000 guests annually, and 79 per cent were Malaysians.

Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China and Europe accounted for 89 per cent of foreign visitors, with 94 per cent choosing Johor, Sabah, Melaka, Selangor and Sarawak.

As for unregistered private residences, I had written many articles in support of owners or main tenants renting out rooms in the house or apartment for long- or short-term stays.

But, for those renting out whole houses or apartments, these businesses must be registered and licensed. If not, it would make a mockery of the government, as only licensed businesses would be penalised for not complying with regulations.

And, more importantly, the safety and security of a building or neighbourhood would be compromised with strangers going in and out of private residences unchecked.

Airbnb seems to be skirting round this issue, instead of addressing it. Goh claimed that Airbnb had worked with hundreds of governments to develop frameworks that supported home sharing, while addressing local community needs.

The statement excluded facts, such as its rate of success with governments and the large number of countries and cities that banned or restricted its services.

And, if local authorities continue to drag their feet in regulating private residences used for commercial purposes, it would expand an underground economy.

Except for renting out whole houses and apartments, I am in full support of Airbnb, as the majority of hosts share the space they live in to earn extra income and pay the bills.

Y. S. Chan, Kuala Lumpur

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