In 2019, the Malaysia tourism industry brought in 26.1 million tourists who spent around RM86 billion, an increase of 2.4% compared to 2018.
However, with the pandemic, Malaysia’s tourism industry is expected to make a loss of RM3.37 billion within the first two months of the year, and experts are predicting that it will take the nation at least 10 months to recover too.
To negate some of the damages, Airbnb offered guests refunds on their service charges via coupons for cancelled bookings in hopes that people will book through the platform again once MCO lifts.
With that in mind, HostAStay, a platform that helps connect vacant property owner to host and assists Airbnb hosts with training, consultation and management, hosted an online conference on March 30.
They brought in several key players from the tourism industry such as Rohan Raghavan (Industry Manager for Google Malaysia), Michael Tan (Director of Freemen Education), and Dato’ Sri Gavin Tee (President of Swhengtee Group) to give their insights on how a host should operate during the MCO and also after the MCO is lifted in Malaysia.
1. Get Side-Gigs Or Temporarily Pivot The Purpose Of The Unit
The panel advised short-stay hosts to try and transition to do something else instead, as they see the demand for short-stay units lowering in the coming months.
Michael said hosts could try to convert their units into quarantine centres, so the people who are infected can choose to isolate themselves and have a place to stay. You could also think of providing food and medical support for the guests.
Dato’ Sri Gavin Tee chimed in and said that hosts should also potentially look into providing staycation type units as he believes local travelling will increase this year.
Jordan Oon, the CEO of HostAStay later added that hosts can potentially even transition into offering their units as video shooting studios and virtual offices to get some cash rolling in.
2. Convert Your Unit Into Long-Stay Units
Hosts that can transition their units into long-stays can capture a new market that they’ve not explored before as the experts can see the shift coming.
Michael then shared that some of the guests might not be looking to stay in shared units anymore, to keep themselves safe from being infected.
So long-stay units might entice young adult workers looking for a unit to stay in the city.
Jordan brought up companies like Tujia in China, who are already looking into long-stay units.
“[Current] short-stay units have a huge advantage over existing long-stay units as they are more well-renovated and have better quality. This will give the tenants more reason to move from their existing units into previously short-stay units.”
3. Use Data Collection To Build Brand Loyalty
Rohan mentioned that in most of the places that he stayed in, the hosts weren’t even there to greet him in person, and they didn’t ask anything else other than his purpose of visiting.
But during this period, he believes building brand loyalty is important. By putting the customers first, it’ll show that you actually care, and when they’re thinking of travelling, they’ll keep you in mind.
He advises hosts to contact ex-guests as a start.
A simple survey can be all you need to collect data on your ex-guests. In the survey, you could ask questions about what can be improved or what they liked about their stay.
With the data you collected, you can then tweak your unit accordingly after MCO lifts.
Adni M. Fauzi, the CEO of Tawakkal Homestay agreed with the statement saying that if you want to continue in this business, you’ll have to keep learning and during the MCO, it is the best time to learn.
Jordan added that as a host, you must adopt a hospitality mindset instead of having a property mindset of looking for a profit. Thinking of how to ensure your guest would get a memorable and good stay is important in building brand loyalty.
4. Check Out The Competition
Eric Wong, one of the co-founders of Sync Academy also advised attendees to learn from experienced hosts. Before he joined the industry, he stayed in other Airbnbs to get some knowledge on how to run a successful unit.
“Try renting a unit in the area that you’re trying to start. If your property has 3 rooms, try to rent a unit with 3 rooms and experience how other hosts manage their unit.”
He said that if you experience something you’d like to have in your unit, you can try and replicate it in yours. If there’s something you dislike, you can avoid doing so in your unit.
With this knowledge, you can then make smarter decisions on the renovation of your unit.
5. Keep An Eye Out For Potential Collaborations
“In times like these, everyone should work together instead. Work out how to collaborate with people outside your industry and get something going,” Michael insisted.
For example, if your unit is located nearby famous eateries, you could try and strike up a partnership with them and offer guests that live in your unit a discount on meals. Alternatively, the eateries can offer their customers discounts on your unit if they wish to stay nearby.
By collaborating with more local players, you’ll build a sense of community and you can then provide better deals and discounts for your guests.
Jordan stressed that collaboration is needed because everyone is already suffering from the effects of COVID-19 and working together will allow everyone to maximise their gain and reduce risks.
He hopes to see other like-minded players in the industry join hands and collaborate, especially during the crisis.
As a company in the tourism industry, Jordan said that HostAStay has several plans moving forward, as he sees MCO as a chance to digitise their knowledge and share it to the world. And this online conference is one of the ways they can do just that.
He foresees the company as an information hub to drive tourism back to its peak. Then after everything has normalised, they will then turn their focus back on the hosts to assist them in generating better income and operate efficiently.
- For more info on the HostAStay Short-Stay conference here.