Malaysia Sets Sights on Becoming Southeast Asia’s Digital Nomad Hub


Key Takeaways

  • Partnership to spotlight 600+ digital nomad-friendly listings in Malaysia, aiming to establish the country as Southeast Asia’s hub for remote workers.
  • MDEC initiative offering nomad passes, specialized hubs, and nationwide promotion of digital professional mobility.
  • Collaboration accrediting accommodations, offering grants for upgrades, and enhancing Malaysia’s appeal to international talent.
  • Accredited accommodations must offer high-speed internet, workspaces, community engagement, and upgrades for digital nomad readiness.

In a bid to position Malaysia as a top choice for digital nomads in Southeast Asia, two significant collaborations between tech giants and the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) emerged.

Airbnb’s Partnership with MDEC

Airbnb has recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with MDEC to spotlight over 600 digital nomad-friendly DE Rantau Hub listings on their platform. The goal? To establish Malaysia as the primary destination for digital nomads within Southeast Asia.

According to a report in The Edge Malaysia, MDEC CEO Mahadhir Aziz emphasized the alignment with the country’s digital aspirations. 

“This collaboration exemplifies our unwavering commitment to driving digital transformation and enriching the digital economy,” he said, per the report. “Through Airbnb’s global platform, offering diverse accommodation options to suit digital nomads’ preferences, we are poised to unlock boundless opportunities for remote workers and propel Malaysia as a leading hub for the region.”

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The report noted that this initiative ties seamlessly with MDEC’s DE Rantau program. The project is designed to elevate Malaysia as Southeast Asia’s digital nomad center while advancing digital adoption and endorsing digital professional mobility and tourism nationwide. 

As a perk, the program bestows nomad passes to eligible recipients, granting them the privilege to roam and work from MDEC’s specially designed hubs spread throughout Malaysia.

Cities hosting these digital nomad-friendly Airbnb listings include popular tourist destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Penang, and Langkawi. In the report, Airbnb’s Asia Pacific director of public policy, 

Steven Liew also highlighted the evolving landscape of work and travel, propelled by the pandemic, adding, “We will continue working hand in hand with the government to ensure that travelers continue to enjoy a variety of unique stays at different price points — be it for a digital nomad traveling solo for a month, or a family enjoying a weekend getaway.”

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For hosts aiming to list their properties as MDEC-approved, mandatory features include high-speed internet, dedicated workspaces, and amenities tailored for extended stays. Mahadhir also underscored the significance of a property’s location and vibrancy in catering to digital nomads.

Tourplus and MDEC: An Accreditation for Digital Nomad Readiness

According to a Digital News Asia report, the Malaysian travel tech startup Tourplus Technology Sdn Bhd has also entered the arena, teaming up with MDEC to offer accreditation to accommodation operators aligned with the De Rantau program. 

The objective is to certify accommodations as remote-work-friendly, ensuring they are primed to receive the anticipated wave of digital nomads.

The report noted that global statistics from Forbes indicate an impressive 35 million digital nomads, with an anticipated economic contribution nearing US$787 billion annually. Malaysia’s De Rantau program leverages this vast market to invigorate the nation’s digital economy.

Accommodations must meet specific criteria to attain this coveted accreditation, including lodging facilities, robust internet connectivity, lively communities, and regular engagement programs. 

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Those falling short can apply for a grant from MDEC, allowing them to upgrade and refurbish their premises, thus meeting digital nomad requirements.

In the report, Rickson Goh, CEO & founder of Tourplus, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, foreseeing immense opportunities to allure international talent to Malaysia’s picturesque locales. 

The initiative extends beyond accommodations, seeking to boost bookings and drive sales for neighboring businesses.

In addition to facilitating thriving De Rantau Hubs throughout Malaysia, Tourplus offers digital nomads enticing discounts on selected services via their app.

What We Think

The collaborations between tech giants like Airbnb, startups like Tourplus, and MDEC underscore Malaysia’s proactive stance in attracting digital nomads.

By curating nomad-friendly accommodations and offering support for upgrades, Malaysia is strategically positioning itself as a prime destination for remote workers in Southeast Asia.

This initiative not only enhances the digital economy but also promotes vibrant communities and cross-sectoral growth. It’s a promising step toward transforming Malaysia into a thriving hub for international talent.


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