Sarawak to look into regulating Airbnb

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

KUCHING: Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said new laws may have to be passed to regulate online hospitality services provider Airbnb.

He said at this stage, Airbnb has yet to become an issue in Sarawak but his ministry will look into the matter.

“It (Airbnb) has to go through some regulatory monitoring. For example, who is going to look into it; its operations come under which law; and when problems such as rape and fire arises, who should see to the problems.

“We will definitely look into this matter. So far it (Airbnb) has not been raised up in Sarawak but there has been some discussions when it comes to lodging houses which have not come under the purview of licensing for hotels.”

He said like lodging houses, there are no laws to regulate and safeguard travelers who use Airbnb services.

“There are tight laws placed on hotels such as the approval of Bomba (Fire and Rescue Department) but when it comes to lodging houses, the regulatory part of it is quite loose. We need to look into this,” Abdul Karim told DayakDaily today.

On the latest news that a lawyer in Kota Kinabalu has declared that Airbnb was not legal in Sabah, Abdul Karim said he could not yet make a clear-cut statement on the issue.

“We are going into a new phase (digital economy), there will definitely be quite a few things to look into. That is why I can’t say it (Airbnb) is illegal. We will have to look into the legality of it.

“If it is infringing certain laws, then probably we need to see how it can be regulated in accordance with the law.

“I am aware it (Airbnb) is in operation but for the lawyer to declare it is illegal, I am not so sure about it,” said Abdul Karim when met at the state-level Triannual General Meeting of Saberkas at a local hotel here today.

On whether Sarawak would allow Airbnb to legally operate in Sarawak like Uber, Abdul Karim only replied,”One step at a time.”

In Kota Kinabalu, a lawyer had warned prospective Airbnb operators to review their local laws before listing their property with Airbnb.

He said local authorities would vary on how they regulate Airbnb operations where some countries including Singapore, Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Amsterdam and even London have banned it.

Earlier this month, it was reported that foreigners coming to stay in Malaysia and booking their accommodation on AirBnB will be paying the RM10 tourism tax.

Airbnb is an online service which acts as a broker, facilitating the lease or renting of short-term lodging. It has grown in popularity globally, with the company claiming it has more than 3 million listings globally in more than 65,000 cities and 191 countries. It does not own any lodgings. However, it has been subject to various criticisms, among them, guest discrimination by hosts, failing to ensure the safety of users and property, pricing transparency, and tax avoidance by hosts.