Malaysian hotel association says money is leaving the country because of Airbnb

Money from tourists staying in Malaysia is leaving the country through alternative online booking sites like Airbnb, the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (MAHO) president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Hong said last night.

He said the platform is exempt from the tourism tax imposed on the domestic hotel industry because Airbnb’s South-east Asian regional office is based in Singapore.

“Besides the outflow of money from the country, this also means the burden of paying the tax falls upon the established hotel chains,” he said in his speech at MAHO’s 21st-anniversary dinner at Hotel One World here last night.

The federal government introduced the RM10 tax in September 2017 as a means to increase tourism revenue. Established hotels charge each foreign tourist the amount per night of stay while Malaysian tourists are exempt from payment.

Teo noted that Airbnb recently recorded a 100% increase in its revenue and occupancy rate year-on-year for Malaysia alone in 2018.

“This means they are taking up to 15% of the total room occupancy nationwide, which poses further challenges for the hotel industry,” he said.

Teo said MAHO hopes the government will stop collecting tourism tax from them once the departure tax at airports kicks in.

“It makes no sense to keep it as the tourism tax is only collected from four- and five-star hotels and not from accommodations such as homestays.

“It would be fairer for everyone in the industry for the departure tax to be imposed instead. If the government wants a meaningful source of income, then the departure tax is the best option,” he said.

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The government, both when it was under Barisan Nasional and now under Pakatan Harapan, have been considering taxing Internet-based commercial entities, including Airbnb.

Airbnb’s South-east Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan general manager Mike Orgill has said the company welcomes Putrajaya’s proposal to tax its services along with other online firms.

However, Orgill called for a fair tax structure and indicated Airbnb is willing to sit down with the authorities so that all sides will benefit.

The departure tax, to be paid by all outbound air passengers, was supposed to start June 1 but has since been deferred.

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi concurred with Jelebu MP Datuk Jalaluddin Alias in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday for the departure tax to be postponed as it could negatively impact the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign. — Malay Mail

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