Mita seeks another round of financial aid for tourism players

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by TMR FILE

THE Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) is urging the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) to consider another round of financial assistance for the tourism industry players, now that the country is in the third Movement Control Order (MCO 3.0).

MITA president Uzaidi Udanis (picture) said while its members are appreciative of the government’s allocation of RM1 billion in loans to tourism players, they need to see the outcome and the impact of the facilities.

“We hope Bank Negara Malaysia will be able to provide us with the latest status on the disbursement of the funds and facility regularly,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Uzaidi said the government needs to study the reasons if there is a low take-up rate on the loan, while the approval of loans for tourism industry players should be made easier and with relaxed requirements.

Apart from that, Mita also urged the country’s banks, including credit and finance companies, to help the nation to combat the pandemic by providing automatic loan moratorium with zero interest with immediate effect until Dec 31, 2021.

Uzaidi said this moratorium should apply to all individual tourism players and tourism companies who have loan facilities before March 2020.

“Since all banks have made huge profits in the financial year of 2020, we hope they can become corporate role models in helping the nation during this challenging time,” he added.

Uzaidi said the tourism industry is almost totally paralysed and there is no growth with interstate and international borders closed.

He stressed that the tourism industry used to be a major contributor to the national GDP with an estimated RM90 billions in tourist receipts, as well as providing four million jobs for Malaysians which represents 24% of total employment in Malaysia.

Speaking on tax exemption for travel agents, Uzaidi expected tax waivers to be extended to all travel agents for five years until 2025, which is the expected recovery period for the tourism industry.

He also called for a special waiver on insurance and road tax including Puspakom fee for all valid registered tourism vehicles for three years until 2024.

“There are about 9,990 registered ‘bas persiaran’ in the market, so based on a minimum rental income of RM600 per day, the bus operators are losing about RM6 million a day.

“In addition, the bus operators need to pay high insurance fees for tourism vehicles (van and bas persiaran) which range from RM1,000 to RM10,000 per year even though the buses are not moving,” he said.

To accelerate the flattening of the Covid-19 wave, Mita also called on the government to issue a complete lockdown.

Uzaidi said although it will be tough, the association is ready to sacrifice for the sake of the country and the people.

“Once we succeed in breaking the chain of infections, we can start travelling again in accordance with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the new norm.

“Mita hopes all industry players, stakeholders and the authorities will work together and move forward with a new normal of tourism,” he said.

He noted that the association will continue to engage Motac and other ministries so that the tourism industry can survive and recover.

Additionally, Uzaidi emphasised that tourism players are industry frontliners and thus, its workers must be given priority under the vaccination exercise.

He said the government needs to speed up the vaccination programme and allow private hospitals and clinics to administer the vaccines, as it will certainly ease the pressure on health frontliners who are at the brink of collapse.

Uzaidi said a comprehensive tourism recovery plan like strategies to open up international borders for tourists who have been vaccinated should also be initiated soon.

“We can study and look at other countries’ best practices like Qatar, Maldives, the United Arab Emirates and others.

“We need to initiate a sandbox (experiment) with a specific destination like Qatar-Malaysia, for example, before opening up to other destinations,” he added.

Uzaidi highlighted that the country should also look at allowing vaccinated tourists to visit Malaysia without having to go through a quarantine period from October 2021 onwards with compulsory booking through travel agents.

Similarly, he hoped the National Security Council (NSC) will allow for a domestic travel bubble after MCO 3.0 with travel bookings through travel agents only.

To avoid confusion and constant changes in SOPs, Uzaidi suggested that the NSC set up a special committee with industry players who can assist the government in detailing comprehensive Covid-19 SOPs for the sector.

“It is very important to revive the tourism industry. Therefore, these are Mita’s requests to the government in order to ensure the survival of the tourism industry,” he said.

Meanwhile, Uzaidi requested for travel agencies to be allowed to operate from home and close their office premises until December next year.

He also called for travel agencies to be able to renew their annual Motac licence without submitting an audited account, as it will reduce their annual expenditure as auditors fees range from RM4,000 to RM50,000 per year.