CEP urged to abolish tourism tax, regulate Airbnb
Malaysian Association of Hotels president Cheah Swee Hee


A hotel association has proposed to the Council of Eminent Persons (CEP) to abolish the tourism tax and regulate accommodation sharing platform Airbnb activities, the latter posing the biggest threat to its profits.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels president Cheah Swee Hee (picture) said the association had also proposed to the council that wages within the industry are harmonised.

“The move to abolish the current tourism tax for foreign tourists would be the most attractive option to boost arrivals,” he said when met outside Ilham Tower in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Cheah said industry players need to find solutions to ensure everyone is charged fairly.

Under the tourism tax that came into effect on Sept 1 last year, foreign guests are charged RM10 per room per night, regardless of the hotel’s star rating. Cheah believed a flat rate does not encourage foreign tourists to stay longer in the country.

“However, of course, this should be discussed with the government first,” he added.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Malaysia totalled 25.9 million in 2017, with an estimated yield of RM82.2 billion (US$21 billion).

The figure is a far cry from the targeted 31 million tourists and RM114 billion yield targeted by the previous government. Last year’s arrival figures indicated a 3% decline over 2016, although yield posted a marginal 0.1% increase in 2017 to RM82.2 billion.

On Airbnb, Cheah said regulation is necessary to ensure all parties in the tourism industry are treated equally.

“Fair regulatory frameworks have to be set out to allow home sharing to thrive, while addressing its host city’s specific concerns,” he added.

He said harmonising wage regulations among hoteliers is important due to the structure differences of the sector compared to other industries.

“The council has been supportive, and is open to proposals and suggestions from the association and other stakeholders in the industry,” Cheah said.

The association also hopes the Kuala Lumpur International Airport will become a hub with higher flight connectivities, and subsequently boost tourist arrivals into the country.