Matta wants attractive incentives to get tourism out of ‘comfort zone’


THE previous national budgets were ineffective in boosting the country’s tourism. 

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) said a major revamp is also needed to revitalise businesses against fierce competition and global economic concern. 

Matta president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said other Asean destinations experience extremely high growth rates, while Malaysia is stuck in a “comfort zone”, based on the recorded tourist arrival statistics. 

“From 2009 to 2019, international tourist arrivals ranged between 23.65 million and 26.1 million, indicating that Malaysia remains a largely static tourism destination, with the exception of a one-time high of 27.44 million arrivals in 2014 owing to Visit Malaysia 2014,” he said in a statement. 

He added that iconic tourism products have also been lacking for many years. 

Therefore, he said, the government needs to provide more attractive incentives other than the traditional tax incentives, such as pioneer status or investment tax allowance to encourage tourism investments. 

For the upcoming revised Budget 2023, Matta proposed for the financing to be more focused on “destination visibility” advertising and the enhancement of tourist products and infrastructure, while simultaneously providing enough assistance for tourism stakeholders to strengthen themselves post-pandemic. 

Additional initiatives are also required to promote domestic tourism, as a full recovery to pre-pandemic level is not anticipated until 2024/2025. 

The govt could also consider investing more funds towards the launch of ‘Visit Malaysia 2024’ to revitalise the tourism industry, says Tan (pic: Bernama)

In view of that, Matta has submitted a comprehensive budget proposal to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and the Finance Ministry which includes establishing an independent Tourism Recovery & Growth Fund to ensure the availability of funds to assist tourism businesses in upgrading their facilities and service infrastructure. 

“We are also proposing Digital Promotions Matching Grant and Overseas Promotions Funding to compensate for a weakened Malaysian currency,” Tan said. 

Besides that, Matta has sought for the government to allow double deductions for corporate companies to hold staff incentive trips and holidays for their employees within the country rather than at foreign destinations. 

For taxpayers, Matta recommended a tax relief of RM5,000 for individual taxpayers and their families to spend on domestic travel within Malaysia which will further enhance domestic tourism. 

Severe economic hardship has caused many operators to dispose of their vehicles to avoid bankruptcy and, in the process, has severely depleted Malaysia’s tourism fleet capacity. 

Therefore, Matta proposed a total exemption of excise duty on the purchase of new and locally-produced tourism vehicles. “This will not only benefit local vehicle manufacturers, but also enable tourism operators to rebuild fleet capacity quickly to meet the anticipated demand as tourism recovers,” Matta said.

Matta also recommended a remission of import duties on foreign-made luxury automobiles to ensure that tourism vehicles are suitable for more affluent tourists and shifting customer preferences, and to maintain a competitive edge. 

Meanwhile, Matta viewed the current state of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) aerotrain service and the backup bus service as still poor and undesirable for travellers. 

KLIA requires a new satellite to satisfy today’s global security requirements and one that can better facilitate the efficient mobility of passengers between terminals. 

Tan said in comparison to neighbouring countries, Malaysia is losing ground to nearby competitors such as Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta. 

Likewise, Langkawi is losing out to Phuket and Bali for the same reasons. 

“Despite knowing that our tropical climate can be either excessively hot or wet, the comfort of passengers is not given adequate consideration,” he added. 

In order to increase arrivals from high-potential source markets, particularly India and China, Tan said it is necessary to revamp existing visa procedures, which include the introduction of multiple-entry visas valid for one year, visa-on-arrival (VOA) facilities and lower visa costs. 

“The government could also consider investing more funds towards the launch of ‘Visit Malaysia 2024’ to revitalise the tourism industry,” Tan concluded. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition