Sarawak minister seeks to clear the air on short-term rentals in state

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUCHING, April 22 — Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today said matters related to short-term rental accommodation (STRAs) in the state were under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

He added that online travel agencies were likewise regulated federally, in response to industry complaints raised by the Malaysian Budget and Business Hotel Association (MyBHA).

“The regulations on the online travel agencies come under purview of the federal Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture while the issuance of licences comes under the purview of the Sarawak Ministry of Local Government,” he told reporters here.

Karim said matters concerning unlicensed STRAs were up to the state Local Government Ministry, adding that he had spoken to them already.

“I see that MyBHA president Sri Ganesh Michiel’s words against my ministry are a bit strong on the online travel agencies and STRAs.

“It looks like he is giving us an ultimatum, that is, if you don’t do this, we may increase the room rates,” he said, adding that it is not a good way to sort out problems.

“As it is, Motac, my ministry and the state tourism board have been working hard trying to get tourists to come to the state,” he said, referring to the federal tourism authority.

“That is why we see a lot of tourists coming, some are staying in five-star hotels and many are staying in budget and business hotels,” he added.

Karim said his ministry organises over 200 events every year that attract large foreign participants and asked budget and business hotels in Sarawak not to take advantage of the large number of tourist arrivals by quickly increasing their room rates, saying that it will not help the hospitality and tourism industry to grow.

“If you want to increase the room rates by 30 to 40 per cent as MyBHA has suggested, people will still be coming in, but it is a very cheap way of trying to make money,” he said.

He said those holding offices in MyBHA should think far ahead, and not be short-sighted, knowing full well that many foreign tourists are coming. He said even with the existing rates the budget and business hotels can still make profits as their rooms are 70 to 80 per cent occupied.

“Be patient and thankful as my ministry is making efforts to ensure that the hospitality and tourism industry in Sarawak is thriving,” he said.

MyBHA’s Ganesh was recently reported by news portal Free Malaysia Today to have complained about the lack of government action against online travel agencies and STRAs in Sarawak, adding that this would prompt budget hoteliers in the state to raise the price of accommodation.

Ganesh had claimed that STRAs in Sarawak operated without a valid business licence as a result adding that his ministry was uninvolved.

He appealed to Karim to immediately assist budget hotel entrepreneurs or operators, especially in the state, in ensuring the sustainability of their businesses. MyBHA previously warned of 30 to 40 per cent rate hikes over the next three months because of various factors that impacted operational costs.