Emulate Paris to control Airbnb, say hotels

airbnb-1PETALING JAYA: If Paris can do it, Malaysia can, too.

This was the response given by Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Cheah Swee Hee, in relation to a Paris city council ruling concerning property-letting website Airbnb.

The council had reportedly ruled that people renting out their apartments for short-term rental services like Airbnb must now register their properties with the government.

The hotel industry in Paris had been lobbying for this change, claiming that Airbnb and similar services create unfair competition.

The hotels have welcomed the council’s decision.

Cheah told FMT he hoped Malaysian local authorities would follow suit.

“This is what we have been requesting the authorities to do — to regulate the illegal operators and Airbnb for a level playing field.

“This move should be expedited,” he said when contacted.

Cheah said it was also important for enforcement to be carried out.

“This is important to ascertain demand and supply of accommodation.”

Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) president PK Leong says all Airbnb places of accommodation should be registered and subjected to the same hotel regulations. This is essential to ensure fair competition.

Leong said residential properties could come under residential land titles or commercial titles.

“Airbnb should only be operated in residential properties under commercial titles. If not, it will go against the law.”

He said when Airbnb operators operated from residences under residential titles, it will disturb the peace and quiet of other purchasers.

“It will also compromise the safety of other families as we are not certain who is lurking outside our homes.”

Leong stressed that they are not calling for a stop to Airbnb operations, but rather seeking some form of control and regulation so that the interests of the guests and neighbours are protected.

“A forum should be conducted to openly discuss this matter. It should involve Airbnb operators, hoteliers, residential committees and city authorities to reach a workable solution for the benefit of everyone.”

Airbnb is described as a “peer-to-peer online marketplace and homestay network that enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties”.

The service has grown in popularity since its inception in 2008.

A joint memorandum sent recently by MAH, the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) and the Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) to the government on the tourism tax stated 3,126 accommodation providers are registered with the ministry.

On the other hand, they said there are 6,452 unregistered accommodation providers on Agoda.com – a popular travel fare aggregator website – and 11,698 accommodation providers on Airbnb as of April this year.

Unlike operators of illegal hotels and Airbnb, hotels have to comply with regulations, including paying for business fees, licences and commercial rates for utilities.

* Ivy Chong contributed to this article.