Budget 2022: Focus on domestic tourism boost

by ASILA JALIL / pic by BERNAMA

INDUSTRY players in the tourism sector are calling for the government to focus on reviving the industry in its Budget 2022 by providing travel stimulus packages and loan moratorium extensions to stimulate domestic travel.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) hopes that the budget will be generous towards the industry with specific and targeted assistance for the tour operators and travel agencies who have been the main contributor and catalysts to the development of the industry.

“Rehabilitating tourism businesses involve providing soft loans for the companies to rebuild an infrastructure that has collapsed, staff retention, retraining and providing support to meet consumers’ expectations and its competitiveness as a preferred destination in this region.

“Due to the pandemic, current tourism strategies will be local before global. As such, Budget 2022 should focus on providing travel stimulus packages and tax incentives for personal and corporate travel.

“Given the limitations of domestic tourism, the government must fast-track framework and travel solutions to expedite opening the border for international tourists,” said its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang in a recent statement.

Tan said the association had submitted its proposals and wish list for Budget 2022 to the Ministry of Finance (MoF) which he claimed to assist the critically injured economic sector and stakeholders involved.

Its wishlist had seven items which include urging the MoF to set up a “Tourism Recovery and Growth Fund” to provide financial support to all stakeholders and private sector companies in the industry to resuscitate the sector.

Tan said the fund should provide at least RM5 billion as a soft loan facility with a 1% interest and the repayment period of seven years.

The government was also told to revive the “Domestic Travel Stimulus Programme” with a RM500 million allocation to start with for the consumers to buy subsidised domestic holidays from licensed travel agencies/tour operators.

Other items on its wishlist include income tax exemption of RM8,000 is allowed for Malaysians to travel for their umrah and a sufficient budget for the government agency concerned and travel-related associations to carry out more aggressive promotion and marketing internationally to market Malaysia as a safe and viable tourism destination.

“Matta had urged the government that the revival of the tourism industry needs a clear strategic roadmap for the reopening of international borders.

“While domestic travel is important, it is insufficient to sustain the tourism industry overall. International borders must be reopened soonest with set regulations and travel safe protocol as we move into the endemic period as we learn to live with the virus,” he added.

Meanwhile, Airbnb had also proposed several recommendations to the government for consideration ahead of the tabling of the national budget on Nov 29, 2021.

Airbnb South-East Asia head of public policy Mich Goh said the company had called on the government to approve the regulatory framework proposed by the Malaysian Productivity Corp which will provide a clear and consistent framework for short-term residential accommodation (STRA).

She said the framework will ensure the STRA sector can play a role in driving tourism growth as the country begins to reopen to international travel.

Airbnb also urged the government to adopt an inclusive approach in the formulation and implementation of economic recovery strategies.

“It is important that STRA hosts and platforms are included in discussions on tourism reopening, as the country reopens its state borders and gradually resumes overseas travel.

“This will enable all enterprises, including smaller tourism players, to participate in and drive the acceleration of Malaysia’s post-pandemic recovery,” she said.

Other proposals include the inclusion of Aribnb bookings in digital vouchers for domestic tourism and the extension of the moratorium on loan repayments.