Open up market for short-term home stays

Woman with a luggage at the lift lobby of People's Park Centre, on May 17, 2019.
Woman with a luggage at the lift lobby of People's Park Centre, on May 17, 2019. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Short-term stays in private homes are often preferred by millennials, in this age of mobile apps where one can access information and services from the convenience of a mobile phone (Living among tourists, May 26).

There has been pushback against the phenomenon in some countries, while others have made it legal - one example being Sydney in Australia.

Visitors choose short-term stays in private homes over hotels, serviced apartments and hostels for many reasons. As was pointed out by an Airbnb host interviewed by The Straits Times, many guests prefer the comforts of a home over a hotel room.

Short-term stays in homes compare favourably to the size and cost of hotel rooms, cost of serviced apartments, and the overcrowding and inconvenience of hostels.

I once saw a Facebook post in which a foreigner coming to Singapore for a two-month internship was looking for short-term accommodation. In her case, a stay in a hotel or serviced apartment would not be viable, yet short-term home rentals of less than three months are illegal here.

Many people responded to her post with offers of accommodation. I would consider it high-handed if the authorities were to prosecute the home owner that ultimately allowed her to stay in his home.

Residents have voiced concerns about security and the loss of privacy.

I believe that visitors are not interested in intruding into the privacy of other residents, as their primary interest is to visit tourist attractions. If anything, they are better behaved and less intrusive.

I have stayed in short-term accommodation overseas, and love to interact with the hosts and learn about their local cultures and norms, along with receiving tips on which tourist attractions to visit.

I would guess that this is the case for most such visitors.

Singapore would miss out on many millennial tourists if short-term accommodation remains illegal.

These tourists would not choose hotels or serviced apartments.

The authorities should gradually open up the market for short-term accommodation here.

Perhaps they can begin with hosts that have a spare room and are residents themselves in the same apartment.

Wu Pei Tong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2019, with the headline 'Open up market for short-term home stays'. Print Edition | Subscribe