Necessary paperwork: Audry going through her stack of licences and permits required to operate her Telang Usan hotels. She has more than 20 of such documents, including some in a thick folder on the left.
Kuching: Thousands of tourists are unknowingly taking risks by staying in budget hotels across Sarawak everyday. This is because many of these businesses, from simple inns to boutique hotels, are not licensed.
It would not be wrong to call them “illegal” but this is not what any of these hotels want. They want to run a legitimate business but they are lost in an uncompromising sea of red tape.
The owner of a new and popular low budget hotel here revealed that she had applied for her licences three years ago but till today, the authorities had not given her any reply.
“We hired lawyers and architects to do the paper work and draw up blue prints. To this day, we’ve not heard from the authorities. We don’t remember any more how many steps there are to get a licence,” she said.
It took one of the better established budget hotels here six years to obtain all approvals. So while the budget accommodation industry thrives with many listed in guidebooks and websites like Trip Advisor many do not “legally” exist.
Financially, many simply can’t wait, and have gone on to begin their businesses, which means less assurances for tourists, while the government loses on tax collection. Sarawak Tourism Federation president Audry Wan Ullok, who also runs hotels, is taking a strong stand.
She said affordable accommodation is important for Sarawak’s tourism industry, and bona fide entrepreneurs should be encouraged, not penalised, before the licence application process is streamlined.