BERITA DAILY LETTER: From YS Chan, via e-mail

Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MyBHA) president PK Leong said the once-flourishing business had taken a nosedive,

The disclosure is in sharp contrast with the statement issued earlier by Airbnb head of public policy for Southeast Asia Mic Goh, who claimed that despite Airbnb’s growth, hotels are healthier than ever.

However, Airbnb deserves applaud for providing an efficient and convenient platform for millions of people around the world to open their homes to welcome visitors for overnight stay.

Budget conscious guests are naturally drawn by lower rates charged at private residences, where overheads are minimal.

Payments received by the hosts could also go a long way to 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 experience could turn out to be priceless.

This concept is not new. For decades, students in exchange programmes stayed with host parents, allowing them to immerse fully into the local society and culture, and often built deep relationship with host families.

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

Nationwide, there are 199 homestay clusters participated by 3,878 homes offering a total of 5,445 rooms. Registered home owners receive about 240,000 guests annually, and about 79 percent are Malaysians.

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

As for unregistered private residences, I had written many articles in support of owners or main tenants renting out spare 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 anytime unchecked. Airbnb seems to be skirting this core issue, instead of addressing it.

Mic Goh claims that Airbnb has worked with hundreds of governments around the world to develop clear and sensible frameworks that support 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 succeed in expanding an underground economy.

Except for renting out whole houses and apartments, and the spins dished out, I am in full support of Airbnb, as the majority of its hosts share the home in which they live so that they earn a little extra income and pay the bills.