A boon or bane?


Illegal homestay facilities on the rise in Sarawak, claims association

KUCHING: Registered homestay programme operators in Sarawak are crying foul over an increase in the number of illegal homestay facilities in the state.

Sarawak Homestay Association chairman Mahmud Sabli said with no specific laws to punish such offenders, it would be hard to take action against them.

“The best that we can do now is to demand stricter enforcement against them, either by local councils, or the federal Tourism Ministry,” he told Bernama here yesterday.

Mahmud said the association had received feedback on the illegal homestay in Sarawak with some even going as far as to advertise their illegal homestay programmes on the Internet.

Feedback received by Bernama showed that there were more than 100 homestay operators in Sarawak who are registered with the Tourism Ministry but due to lack of enforcement, there has been an increase in the number of illegal homestay in the state.

Although there were no specific figures available for the state, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen was quoted on Feb 8, that was an expected 900 unlicensed homes or budget hotels using the homestay status in the country.

She suggested that to fight the rising problem of illegal homestay, stricter issuance of homestay permits by local councils was needed to allow only those registered with the Tourism Ministry to provide such services.

Meanwhile, Jamilah Shukri who runs a successful Santubong Homestay about 30km from here said there was a lot of misconception in registering homestay programmes.

“Actually the state and federal government had made it easier to legalise their operation by setting a standard regulation and attending a course that is free of charge,” she said.

She said even the rate offered by registered homestay operators are cheaper and for example the Santubong Homestay programme rates are as low as RM80 per person.

Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF), representing key tourism players in the state, has expressed it concern over the problem because such activities would tarnish the image of the tourism industry.

STF president Audrey Wan Ullok said over the years some successful homestay operators had invested a substantial amount of capital and resources to upgrade their services.

“They comply to strict operating guidelines set by the federal Tourism Ministry and these illegal operators usually try to find short-cuts and in the end they give a bad impression that may tarnish the good name established by the legal homestay operators,” she said.

“If the problem of illegal homestay is not addressed, the legal ones will get discouraged,” she said. — Bernama