Airbnb rides on Malaysia's rising popularity, sees 137% YOY growth in 2017

Airbnb said its Malaysian hosts welcomed over 1.5 million guests in 2017, representing a 137% year-on-year growth in guest arrivals, the highest growth rate among the company's Southeast Asia markets.

On a city level, Kuala Lumpur saw 510,000 inbound guest arrivals, while Georgetown had 210,000. Johor Bahru and Petaling Jaya had 130,000 and 80,000 inbound guest arrivals respectively. Currently, there are more than 31,900 Airbnb listings in Malaysia and the hosts have received travellers from 176 countries in their homes and communities.

Meanwhile, the company also launched its Global Office of Healthy Tourism, a global initiative to drive local, authentic and sustainable tourism in countries and cities worldwide. It will create a new Tourism Advisory Board comprising travel industry leaders across the globe.

Among the list of initiatives under the Global Office of Healthy Tourism include the landmark listing of Yoshino Cedar House in Japan that has rejuvenated a rural aging community and created new jobs, as well as rural regeneration projects in small villages China's countryside and in Italy. The Office of Healthy Tourism aims to help bring the economic benefits of tourism to areas that want to welcome more travellers into their communities in a sustainable way.

According to Mich Goh, Airbnb head of public policy for Southeast Asia, its strong numbers in 2017 reflect an "increasing desire" for local and authentic travel within Malaysia, among both foreign and domestic tourists.

“As Malaysia continues to grow as a popular tourist destination, Airbnb is dedicated to empowering local hospitality entrepreneurs and supporting healthy community growth, through our global platform and philosophy of people-powered travel," Goh said. He added that he is looking forward to working with the Tourism Advisory Board to tap into their expertise to promote and drive healthy tourism worldwide.

“With travel and tourism growing faster than most of the rest of economy, it is critical that as many people as possible are benefiting - and right now not all tourism is created equal. To democratize the benefits of travel, Airbnb offers a healthy alternative to the mass travel that has plagued cities for decades,” Airbnb’s global head of policy and communications, Chris Lehane, said.

Last November, Airbnb announced it is investing US$2 million through 2020 to support and promote innovative and inclusive tourism projects throughout Asia Pacific. According to Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb co-founder, CSO and chairman of China, the funds will be made available to organisations including destination marketing organisations, non-profit agencies, NGOs and community social groups, that require financial support for innovative tourism projects.

In recent times, the Malaysian government and local companies have launched several tourism initiatives to boost the industry. Recently, AirAsia tied up with Sarawak Tourism Board as one of the airline partners for the upcoming Borneo Jazz Festival and Rainforest World Music Festival, to increase the number of visitors to Sarawak. This comes as Sarawak's hief minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said the tourism industry must leverage digitalisation to remain competitive in the global market.

In April, Tourism Malaysia also partnered with Tencent Holdings to unveil the Malaysia Smart Tourism 4.0 initiative, which sees Tencent offering Malaysia with a digital ecosystem to reach out to the 1.4 billion Chinese population through precision marketing methods. Tourism Malaysia even sealed a year-long partnership with FC Barcelona footballer Luis Suarez last November, to drive interest for Malaysia as a tourist destination, leveraging on the football player’s popularity around the world.

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