Short-term rentals a way to show local hospitality to the world

As an avid user of home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, I disagree that "the overriding purpose of short-term rentals is not any idealistic notion of enriching the visitor experience or to facilitate a 'taste of authentic life'", and that "tourists almost always choose Airbnb-style lodgings because they are significantly cheaper" (Short-term rental benefits a vocal minority, by Mr Paul Chan Poh Hoi; May 6).

On the contrary, what has drawn my family and me to Airbnb, time and again, is the genuine warmth, kindness and hospitality of the Airbnb hosts we've met around the world.

With the Urban Redevelopment Authority's proposed framework stipulating strict rules for home-sharing platforms to operate in Singapore, I wonder when we will be able to reciprocate and freely share our local Singaporean hospitality - the "kampung spirit" - with the rest of the world.

Four years ago, I spent a life-changing holiday in Greece.

During the trip, one of my friends was severely injured - the beginning of a nightmarish experience that saw her being hospitalised and undergoing two surgeries before we returned home.

But, I will never forget the hospitality of our Airbnb host.

She helped us lodge a report at the police station, cancelled all her bookings for the following week so that we could continue to stay while our friend recuperated, and helped arrange our flights out of Athens. She cooked us lunch and dinner every day, and even took time off to take us sightseeing while our friend rested.

When it was time to leave Athens, we left behind a red packet to show our host our immense gratitude.

To our surprise, she drove all the way to the airport to return it to us and insisted that she needed no repayment, because everything she had done was out of traditional Greek hospitality.

Our host's exceptional generosity and warmth meant that we now have a house in Athens to call "home". It was a short visit, but we grew from strangers to friends, building a trust and connection that will last a lifetime.

While our other home-sharing experiences have not been as dramatic, we now have places to call "home" around the world, thanks to other hosts we have met.

I truly hope that we will, one day, be able to to welcome people from around the world into our homes through home-sharing platforms like Airbnb and share transformational moments of hospitality and kindness in true Singaporean style.

Tay Hong Siang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline 'Short-term rentals a way to show local hospitality to the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe