Why You Won't Be Able To Find Any Airbnb's On This Southeast Asian Island

The hustle and bustle in the streets of Penang in Malaysia hide a battle that has been going on behind the scenes between residents and Airbnb. In June 2023, Penang became the first place in Southeast Asia to ban Airbnb rentals, a move that came into immediate effect. The reason given by the island's government was that residents sharing a building with short-term vacation lets were adversely affected by bad behavior from tourists, making Airbnb very unpopular on the island.

However, this is not the only reason Airbnb has been in trouble in tourist areas around the world. Short-term rentals have been blamed for a range of problems, such as making house prices unaffordable, putting a strain on local infrastructure, exacerbating over-tourism, and pushing locals out of city centers. Penang is still a very appealing and popular destination, especially as it is home to the world's longest waterslide. Luckily, those keen to stay in a short-term rental still have some places available so long as they comply with state restrictions.

What does the Airbnb ban mean for Penang?

As well as banning Airbnb, policymakers have created certain restrictions on short-term rental properties in Penang. This means tourists can stay in these lets but only in accommodations for commercial use or types of office buildings for a maximum of three days. However, anyone renting out these places needs to be registered and pay an annual fee to do so. In shared buildings, over three-quarters of the residents would also need to give their approval for a property to be registered within it.

Even though Airbnb has warned that it could affect the growth of tourism on the island, the chief minister of Penang thinks otherwise, sharing that there are plenty of other accommodations available for visitors. It remains to be seen whether any other Malaysian island destinations will be affected by similar bans. Nonetheless, Airbnb restrictions around the world are notably growing as cities deal with concerns over their impact on local people.

Other places with Airbnb restrictions

Berlin, Germany's capital, also banned Airbnb for a time. While it is now back, it's heavily restricted instead. As for the capital cities of France and Austria, they have placed rules on how long a place can be rented out. Vienna was given a maximum of 90 days, while those in Paris could be given a rental for 120 days. France has made it so that those who rent a place out to tourists for more than three months must make it into a proper visitor accommodation. Over in Portugal, no new Airbnb licenses are being given out, with the exception of rentals in remote areas.

Elsewhere in the world, like places in the USA and Canada, have also had to curb the rise of Airbnb. Some areas of the city of Montreal have bans in place to make sure there are places for residents to live and aren't being pushed out. Perhaps the most dramatic Airbnb incident happened when the American company filed a lawsuit against New York City over being effectively banned there. However, it was unsuccessful, so it may be that Airbnb has come to accept the decisions of places like Penang in the future.