Halt Airbnb business to fight Covid-19, Putrajaya told

The Malaysian Budget Hotel Association says Airbnb must comply with registration, recording, hygiene and security rules. (AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: Hoteliers have called for government action to suspend the operation of online hospitality booking platform Airbnb, saying it will be in the interest of containing the Covid-19 outbreak.

Malaysian Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) president Emmy Suraya Hussein said the suspension should last until satisfactory regulations had been imposed on the online platform.

Covid-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019”, is the name the World Health Organisation has given to the disease first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Emmy told FMT she was also speaking on behalf of the Malaysian Association of Hotels and Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners.

“Airbnb does not operate like hotels, which must comply with certain rules of registration, recording, hygiene and security,” she said.

“How can individuals or big Airbnb operators be allowed to operate in private residential properties without proper regulation?”

According to her, a person who occupied an Airbnb residential property in Kuala Lumpur has been hospitalised as a Covid-19 victim.

She urged Airbnb to impose strict rules for the protection of customers, saying it must make it mandatory for its partners to adhere to regulations set by local authorities.

“We must bring back public confidence with stricter measures to ensure the lowest risk and so that our economy is not damaged,” she said.

Emmy also said she was appalled by an announcement that the tourism, arts and culture ministry would stop registering short-term residential accommodations.

The registration exercise is due to cease today. The ministry has apparently obtained enough data to help it understand current trends so that it can formulate appropriate policies.

Emmy said ending the registration was akin to allowing the operation of illegal accommodations.

“If you want to regulate, then regulate everything, regardless of whether it’s hotels, apartments or houses that are doing this kind of business,” she said.

In an immediate response, an Airbnb spokesman said it was inappropriate for the hotel association to exploit a global health emergency to further its commercial interests and agenda.

The hotel association’s statement runs contrary to the official guidance of local authorities and the World Health Organisation and makes “inflammatory and alarmist claims which could create senseless anxiety and damage the national tourism industry”, it said.

It said Airbnb will continue to prioritise the safety of hosts, guests and the community.

“We remain committed to working with the Malaysian government to support the local tourism industry, particularly during this challenging period.”