Minister: Regulation of online travel agents, short-term rental accommodation not within MTCP Sarawak’s purview

Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

By Christopher Lidom

KUCHING, April 22: Regulation of online travel agents (OTAs) and short-term rental accommodation (STRA) such as Airbnb are not within Ministry of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts (MTCP) Sarawak purview, says Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

Abdul Karim, who is Minister for MTCP Sarawak said although travel agencies do liaise with his ministry, MTCP Sarawak does not issue the licence or permit for their operations.

“It comes under Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac),” he told a press conference at his office in Baitulmakmur Building 2 here today.

He was commenting on a recent statement by Malaysian Budget and Business Hotel Association (MyBHA) president Sri Ganesh Michiel saying budget hotels in Sarawak will increase their rates if nothing is done to address threats to the industry in State.

Asked if rate hikes will negatively impact the tourism sector instead, Abdul Karim said it would not be beneficial to the industry and Malaysia as well.

He also said that as it is, even at the existing rates, budget hotel operators should be making money because when many visitors are coming in, it means their occupancy has increase to probably up to 70-80 per cent as compared to 50-60 per cent previously.

“When the volume gets bigger, their profit gets higher,” he added.

Meanwhile, on the STRA issue, Abdul Karim said that it is under the Ministry of Local Government and Housing’s jurisdiction.

However, he said that his ministry will look into the matter if it has a serious impact on the tourism industry.

“As far as my ministry is concerned, we’ll try to make sure that for the hospitality and tourism industry, the number of visitors is going up, and those that come down here would feel good about it,” he said.

On April 18, Abdul Karim advised hotel operators to not increase their room rate indiscriminately as it would impact tourist arrivals and the broader tourism sector in Sarawak.

Following that, MyBHA chairman Sri Ganesh on April 21, issued a statement saying that the association does not intend to increase the rates of budget hotels indiscriminately and it will only occur if threats to the hospitality industry which result in decreased income for the operators are not resolved by authorities.

According to Sri Ganesh, among the threats that have yet to be resolved are the failure to regulate OTAs which run their business without legal oversight, failure to regulate STRA where a residential unit or shophouse can be converted into a short-term residential unit or room that can then be sold through online travel agency portals without valid licence, including failure to take stern action against unlicensed accommodation providers. — DayakDaily