LIFE was simpler when the Boarding House Enactment was introduced in 1927, and businesses were clear-cut. This state law served its purpose well until near the end of the millennium when the use of the internet became mainSTRAeam globally.

The Perak Hotel Bill 2023 was recently tabled at the Perak State Legislative Assembly to replace the almost century-old state law.

The Bill was passed with the support of 32 members out of 57 present at the sitting.

Did those dissenting have valid arguments or voted against it just because they are in the opposition regardless of the benefits it may bring to the state?

For progress and tourism development, all valid reasons ought to be considered and politics should not get in the way.

State executive councillor Sandrea Ng Shy Ching said, when tabling the Bill, that the new law would allow hotel licences to be obtained by operators of boarding houses, chalets, rest houses, tents and houseboats who could not be licensed earlier.

The new enactment contains 32 clauses divided into five sections: commencement, licensing, enforcement, miscellaneous matters and repeal and transition.

Their implementations are vital in improving the state’s quality of hotels and overnight accommodations.

The Perak state government deserves to be applauded for this initiative and it is likely to be emulated by several states that are still working on this matter while others will continue dragging their feet and living in the past, oblivious to what is happening around them.

However, the Penang state government has adopted a two-prong approach with one policy for the island and another for the mainland.

Short-term rental accommodation (STRAA) using private residences has been banned in Penang but allowed with conditions on the mainland.

Airbnb said Penang’s move would hurt the state’s economy, which is untrue, just as it had claimed to offer homestays or stay together with hosts in their homes when almost all of its business was renting out various types of vacant private accommodation as unlicensed hotels.

Affected residents are saluting the Penang state government for banning STRA from all private residential properties on the island as many of them have suffered from constant incursions of rowdy visitors with little or no respect for the privacy of others.

However, six types of commercial properties could be used for STRA.

They include serviced apartments, small office home offices, small office flexible offices, small office virtual offices, office suites and duplex offices.

Even so, those planning to offer STRA in the six commercial categories must obtain the approval of their respective joint management bodies (JMB) or management corporations (MCs).

They need to obtain a 75% “yes” vote from other residents at an annual general meeting.

If approved, STRA operators are to pay a one-time security deposit ranging from RM1,000 to RM3,000 per unit, new regiSTRAation fees of up to RM250 per unit and an annual fee ranging from RM250 to RM500 a year per unit to the JMB or MC.

The unit must also be registered with the Penang Municipal Council and documentation provided by the operator to the Companies Commission of Malaysia.

And each unit is only allowed to be rented for a maximum of 180 days a year and rental is also limited to three days a week.

While all landed properties are banned from use for STRA in Penang, those on the mainland could be allowed if approvals were obtained from the town and country planning department, the building department and the Fire and Rescue Department.

Licence applications must include a fire escape plan, adequate firefighting equipment and a declaration of the maximum occupancy capacity.

Therefore, landed properties used as STRAs must have appropriate lighting, ventilation and railings similar to that of commercial buildings.

Landed properties include bungalows, semi-detached houses and terrace houses.

If Seberang Perai City Council (MBSB) approves the STRA licence application, the fees payable include RM50 for adminiSTRAation, RM1,000 for each landed unit and an STRA fee of RM10 per unit.

As for STRAata properties, low and medium-cost homes purchased below RM300,000 and PPR flats cannot be used as STRAs.

Those operating in upmarket apartments or condominiums must register with MBSB and comply with regulations similar to those governing commercial outlets.

STRA operators must also obtain the approval of fellow apartment or condominium owners with at least 75% of them voting in favour at the JMB or MC’s annual general meeting.

If approved, RM1,000 to RM3,000 is required as a security deposit, RM100 to RM250 for regiSTRAation and RM250 to RM500 for the annual fee.

Clearly, the authorities in Penang have done their homework well and come out with comprehensive measures to regulate non-licensed hotels in providing safe accommodation to tourists.

However, there may be some grey areas such as mobile homes.

Mobile homes

As for those using motor vehicles, they fall under the ambit of the Road Transport Department (RTD) and permits are issued by the Land Public Transport Agency (APAD) in peninsular Malaysia or the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) in Sabah and Sarawak.

Motorised mobile homes may be called campers, campervans, caravans, house trailers, motor homes, mobile homes or recreational vehicles.

What they have in common is that they are self-propelled and allow customers to drive and camp overnight wherever they fancy.

But they are much more expensive than normal vehicles and not feasible to operate as a rental business in much the same way as converting used containers to provide lodging for tourists.

It is much cheaper for entrepreneurs to rent apartments and sublet them for STRA.

Nevertheless, I wish to propose a novel concept that could allow many people to venture into the business of paid accommodation using a blue ocean STRAategy instead of competing in a near-saturated market and possibly being penalised for not complying with regulations.

Imagine a bedroom with a toilet/bath built on a small trailer with a single axle on two wheels that could be towed by a tow truck or hooked to a pickup.

Even if placed at various locations for just one or two days, the rental is still affordable due to low conSTRAuction and transport costs.

A STRAucture on wheels parked temporarily may not fall under the jurisdiction of local authorities such as city halls or municipal councils, and without a motor does not require regiSTRAation with the RTD or a permit from APAD or CVLB.

While it is true that caravanning remains unpopular in Malaysia due to the lack of caravan parks across the country, entrepreneurs could think outside the box and scout for sites to house only a few caravans or trailer houses and there are thousands of them all over the country.

There is no need to own or rent a large piece of land, supply it with electricity and water, and provide security for use as a caravan park as costs would be high.

There are many houses and buildings with empty spaces that could accommodate one or more caravans or trailer houses.

Owners could profit by charging for parking and utilities consumed by caravans or trailer houses.

They can range from houses located in urban and rural areas to smaller factories and warehouses, hotels and chalets, farms and plantations, and even clubhouses in golf courses.

Those living in bungalows may rent trailer houses just for fun and park within the compound, more so when family members and relatives are gathered there to stay overnight.

Operators of trailer houses would be able to bring tourism right to the doorstep, not just for visitors but also provides the safest staycation and children will be thrilled.

By facilitating tourism to finally reach all corners of our country, many small towns and villages would also benefit from tourists staying in caravans and trailer houses.

This will allow many people to benefit from paid accommodations with minimal disturbance to the neighbourhood.

YS Chan is the master trainer for Mesra Malaysia and Travel and Tours Enhancement Course and an Asean Tourism Master Trainer. He is also a tourism and transport business consultant. Comments: