This popular Southeast Asian island is banning Airbnb

In response to complaints of bad behaviour from tourists, Penang in Malaysia is slashing its number of short-term rentals

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham
News Editor, Time Out UK and Time Out London
Penang, Malaysia
Photograph: Shutterstock

Short-term rental platform Airbnb is an extremely popular option for tourists looking for a place to stay on holiday. However, with landlords able to buy up multiple properties and rent them out for profit, locals are often left with fewer and pricier living options.

Increasingly, though, popular travel destinations are putting their foot down. Following recent news that the Italian city of Florence is banning new Airbnbs from its city centre, the latest destination to stand up to the rental platform is a popular Southeast Asian tourist spot: the Malaysian island of Penang.

The move by Penang’s local government is apparently a response to complaints of bad behaviour by tourists in short-term holiday rentals. The new policy doesn’t just ban Airbnbs: it restricts all short-term lets. Only commercial properties (rather than private residential lets) like serviced apartments will be allowed to continue hosting guests.

It’ll also now be much more difficult for landlords to register their properties as commercial in Penang. In order to qualify, they’ll have to pay an annual fee and receive official authorisation from the government – as well as 75 percent of their neighbours. They’ll also only be able to host guests for a maximum of three days per week.

It’s worth mentioning that the state of Penang covers more than just the main island, but the ban on short-term rentals only covers the island. Other mainland tourist spots like the city of Seberang Perai are currently unaffected.

In any case, Penang could well be the first major Southeast Asian destination to enforce severe restrictions on Airbnb. But don’t let that stop you visiting: Penang is a fabulous destination as renowned for its food and drink as it is for its temples, museums and natural wonders.

Fortunately, the state is also jam-packed with marvellous hotels. From beachside hideaways to family-friendly establishments, check out our handy guide to all the (non-Airbnb) accommodation options available in Penang.

Did you see that this popular Italian city has banned Airbnbs from its city centre?

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