Cover Story

By Tan Mei Kuan and Ili Aqilah Yus Amirul

In view of the increasing popularity of home-sharing hospitality especially within Ipoh, we spoke to both owners and guests to obtain their perspectives on how this new service works as well as to share their experience. Also, an insight into how home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb have taken the hospitality industry by storm.

An Overview of the Hosts, Amenities, Locations and Reviews

Homestays at Octagon

Octagon Snoopy Homestay

Nico became an Airbnb host in June 2017 running her Octagon Snoopy Homestay strategically located in the heart of the city where most of Ipoh’s famous eateries are within walking distance.

When asked on her reasons for renting out her space, she replied, “As an opportunity to meet up with new friends and also share my Snoopy collection with those who love the iconic character.”

Her one-bedroom unit of 713 square feet accommodates up to six guests with access to condominium facilities such as free indoor parking, swimming pool and jogging track. The unit itself is air-conditioned and furnished with double beds, sofa beds, wifi, TV, hot tub, water heater, hair dryer, board game and swimming floats. It is complete with basic kitchen utensils like fridge, kettle, cutlery sets and plates.

Nico also places copies of the Ipoh Echo in her space for guests to learn more about Ipoh. The house rules are no smoking, pets, parties, cooking and shoes in the unit.

She recommends others to get into the home-sharing business because it allows one to experience different life challenges.

“To ensure that guests have a pleasant stay, I will put myself in their shoes to figure out what is most important to them during a stay,” Nico added. She filters her guests by communicating well with them before approving them for stay and by looking at their past reviews from other Airbnb hosts.

A guest who stayed there in April commented, “Nico is very responsive and helpful. The house is very clean and well-organised with required amenities. It’s a sweet and stylish home. We will come back again!”

Thus, it is no wonder she is rated as a Superhost on Airbnb. Superhosts are experienced, highly rated hosts who are committed to providing great stays for guests.

Interested readers can swing by its Facebook page (octagonsnoopyhomestay) or its Airbnb page: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19296667?s=51

Octagon Ipoh Homestay

Leong is an Airbnb host for two units of apartments at One Octagon along Jalan Theatre, Ipoh. With a choice of either a one-bedroom unit or a two-bedroom unit, both are about 790 square feet each and can occupy up to six pax.

Started around May 2017, the air-conditioned homestay is surrounded by Ipoh’s delicious nosh with the famous Tong Sui Kai (Dessert Street) close by.

Plus, it provides free parking, swimming pool and gym as well as other essential amenities like WiFi, TV, fridge, towels, hair dryer and toiletries.

“Guests can expect a clean unit with basic needs and facilities. Our concept is simple, clean and tidy. I also provide quick response and am on standby to assist during their stay. I’m happy when guests are satisfied with our units and give good reviews,” the amiable Leong elaborated.

Jen described her stay there back in March, “Being someone who is particular about cleanliness, Leong’s place has given me satisfaction as it is dirt free. The beautiful scenery day and night definitely adds value to the stay!”

“I think the home-sharing business does affect the hotel industry but competition brings improvements,” Leong pointed out.

Readers can contact Leong at 012 5203588 / 012 5191866 or find the homestay via Airbnb.

 

Erica Underwood Homestay

Located on the first floor of the shoplot along Concubine Lane, Erica Underwood Homestay consists of two loft-style units of approximately 900 square feet each. The first can accommodate up to 11 pax while the second unit can fit up to seven pax.

Surrounded by murals and heritage buildings built before World War II, the air-conditioned homestay has a spacious living room with a 50”LED TV for online movie or drama streaming and provides other essential amenities like WiFi, towels, dryers, hangers, kettles, soap and toilet paper.

“To ensure safety, guests have to pass through a main entrance to get to the first floor before entering their units. The main entrance is a heavy metal door equipped with keyless smart lock. PIN code is required every time a guest passes through. As for the unit entrance, the door is equipped with the same digital lock. The PIN codes would be changed once the guests have checked out in order to guarantee the safety of the next guest,” Lim Phei Hern, owner of Erica Underwood Homestay, told Ipoh Echo.

CCTVs are installed at strategic places like the main entrance and staircase for added security.

Lim who became an Airbnb host since August 2017 explained, “The biggest motive is to earn side revenue besides doing my full-time job. Secondly, the first floor was long vacant since no one would like to rent it for office purpose at a tourist hotspot. Thus, transforming it into a homestay makes full use of it.”

“The unique name of the space originated from the on-campus acccommodation of my university in Perth where I studied,” he said.

Being rated as a Superhost, how does he ensure that guests have a pleasant stay? “Setting realistic expectations is crucial in the service industry. In my case, I always let my potential customers know that getting parking nearby during the day is challenging. I also let my guests know that the noise from the Concubine Lane early in the morning is inevitable,” he highlighted.

“Besides that, I always show up personally upon guests’ check-in to brief them about what they should know. Face-to-face communication gives perception that the guests are highly valued. Also, it is easy to communicate about the guests’ needs this way. Managing the time is another important element. For instance, deliver the units in clean and good condition on time. Plus, show up punctually during the check-in time,” he added.

Jane, who stayed there in January, enthused, “My family and I had a pleasant stay. It’s simple, clean and nice, just like a home. We thank the host for reserving a parking spot for us and for sparing some toys in the house for my kid when we didn’t get to go out as it was raining the whole day.”

Lim feels that the home-sharing business is not really affecting the hotel industry: “There is still plenty of demand for 2-pax rooms, no matter whether peak period or non-peak season. Friends and family only travel in large groups during school holidays, public holidays or weekends.”

For more info, find the homestay via Airbnb or visit its Facebook page: Erica Underwood Homestay.

 

EDM Space & Vacation House

Located at Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, EDM Space is owned by husband and wife, Marcus Love Chiang and Esther Liew Sook Ching. Started three years ago, they turned a 2-storey corner house in Tambun into a homestay called the EDM Vacation House. EDM stands for Esther (E), the initials of their children (D) and Marcus (M). At the time, there were barely two pages of rentals in Ipoh on Airbnb. From there, Marcus realised the potential they had in gaining more guests to book their place.

“Currently the house is going through a little revamp to turn into a vacation house where we will add several game facilities such as beer pong, table tennis and board games. The living area will be filled with bean bags and the house comes complete with wireless music players, projector TV, BBQ station and the perks of a corner house; a huge parking space,” said Marcus.

EDM Space started as a fun project for the couple. “We love traveling but we couldn’t travel all the time so instead of going out to see the world, we figured why not we bring the world to us? EDM Space is the place where strangers become friends!’ added Marcus.

When asked about his unforgettable memory of hosting, Marcus talked about a German family who loves their place so much, they have stayed four times.

“They were here in Malaysia for 11 days and spent six days in our place. It wasn’t because of our price that made them stay but because of the way we treated them. It made them feel warm and welcome, something that you won’t get in hotels. I believe that if you treat your guests like your best friends, they will somehow take great care of your place. Aside from the German family, we also had a few Taiwanese, Singaporeans and even Malaysians who would come back and stay a few times with us,” said Marcus.

As a frequent traveler himself, he also chooses to opt for Airbnb from time to time, saying, “Airbnb is definitely a game changer in the hotel industry. I don’t really think it affects the hotels but more in affecting the way travel agents modify their ways of marketing to the end users.”

On their Airbnb profile, Sylvia from Sungai Petani thanked Marcus and Esther for their warm treatment, “EDM Space is a really good place where strangers could become friends. Thanks for the great hospitality!”

When it comes to filtering guests, after nearly two years of running EDM Space, they haven’t encountered any issues.

“Most of the guests provide us with simple background details. For example, where they are from, why are they in town, etc. We believe that if we treat them genuinely, they will do the same,” added Marcus.

EDM Space is located at 97A, Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, Kampung Jawa, 30300 Ipoh. Readers can also visit their Airbnb profile at https://bit.ly/2uYom5V or contact Marcus at 012 889 3797.

De Café & Rest House

Dawson from De Café & Rest House decided to put the rest house for Airbnb service a month ago.

“Here at De Café & Rest House, we offer capsule beds with reasonable price. Located right in the centre of Ipoh, our rest house is actually a 100-year-old-building,” said Dawson.

Aside from providing a comfortable space for the guests to relax and recharge, Dawson and his team go the extra mile with their hospitality by helping the guests book and arrange their transportation and activities.

“I believe that Airbnb can compete and challenge the hotels. With affordable pricing that most Airbnb hosts are offering, why not go for Airbnb instead of expensive stays?” added Dawson who has also tried several Airbnbs before.

Among other facilities available at the rest house is free WiFi. Each capsule bed is equipped with basic amenities such as privacy blind, personal locker and individual power sockets that comes together with dual USB port. The place also has a common area which is the cafe section for guests to mingle and meet other travellers.

De Café & Rest house is located at 35, Jalan Sultan Iskandar, 30000 Ipoh and can be contacted at 05 246 1010 or readers can visit their Airbnb profile at https://bit.ly/2H7p2Lb

 

Vintage Café and Guesthouse

Hosting since February 2017, Davin from Vintage Café and Guesthouse believes that Airbnb is indeed the best platform to promote the stays as it comes together with secure payments which are made promptly.

“Currently we only have one property in our Airbnb profile, but it is divided into three different listings: the entire floor, the king room and the queen room,” said Davin who added that Airbnb can certainly compete with hotels since the process to book the place is easy and thanks to the system, it has been a smooth sail for his side as well.

“We have many memorable stories about our guests but the best is definitely getting to know them. We meet, bond, make friends, eat together and even organise parties and trips with guests from all over the world,” added Davin.

Located in the Ipoh old town area with a lot of historical buildings, Vintage Guesthouse has a vintage theme but complete with modern essentials such as free WiFi, TV, dining table, mini bar, kitchen and more.

Readers can check out their Airbnb profile at https://bit.ly/2GLJTAc or contact Davin at 012 668 0272 or 05 241 4955. The place is located at 21, Jalan Market, 30000 Ipoh. Read the review on their cafe here: Ipoh Echo issue 278.

 

The Traditional Hotel Experience

So how does the mushrooming of home-sharing service such as Airbnb and homestays affect hotels’ occupancy rates? Do mainstream hotels still have a competitive advantage?

Maggie Ong, chairperson of Malaysian Association of Hotels (Perak Chapter) expressed, “Any increase in lodgings inventory in the market will definitely affect the current players in all aspects. Anyhow this is good for the consumers and will create a bigger market. I have always believed in healthy competition and it’s the way to go forward.”

“Currently Airbnb and homestays are not regulated and without any guidelines which can create an unequal business environment. For the hospitality industry to thrive in a more harmonious and balanced environment everyone has to operate according to certain rule sets,” Maggie added.

“Every hotel has its own selling points and characteristics. As such hotels will continue to survive among such other products,” she concluded.

For Peggy Lim, the operations director of Sarang Paloh Hotel, she believes that Airbnb does affect the hotel industry.

“The rising number of Airbnb places in Ipoh does affect the market because half of our customers are actually locals. A lot of them are very price sensitive and they are not necessarily looking for an experience, they are looking purely for a resting point, while our hotel  is more like a retreat where people can spend quiet time,” said Peggy.

However, Peggy added that thanks to their heritage building and feel-at-home service provided by the staff, Sarang Paloh constantly has many regular customers and those who were recommended by friends.

Sarang Paloh is located at 12,14,16 Jalan Sultan Iskandar, 30000 Ipoh. Readers can visit their website at www.sarangpaloh.com or contact 05 241 3926 for bookings.