Budget 2021 Won T Save Tourism Industry Say Industry Players
After taking a beating due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism industry players rued that the proposed Budget 2021 would not be enough to help keep what’s left of the industry afloat.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said the proposed budget falls short on providing sufficient wage subsidy to prevent lay-offs and does not provide any incentive to spur domestic tourism.
“The outlook for the next 12 months is bleak and without the right support, we will inevitably see the industry contracting quickly and drastically [...]
“We cannot help but compare the state of tourism in our country to other countries like Singapore who have not only implemented practical and effective stimuli but are already making headway in the controlled re-opening of borders and therefore, the revival of their tourism industry,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Tan Kok Liang
He said the government should double down on its wage subsidy programme and extend the loan moratorium for tourism businesses up to June 2021.
The government’s allocation of RM50 million for maintenance work and overhaul tourism facilities would not be enough to improve tourism products, he said.
He also urged the government to extend its reskilling and training programmes beyond former airline employees and include the tourism industry as a whole.
‘Is this the end?’
Meanwhile, the Malaysia Association of Tour Agencies said Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz’s budget speech in Parliament yesterday only touched on a few sectors in the tourism industry.
“This has made us feel very disappointed with Budget 2021 because there is a big possibility that many of the 3.6 million-strong workforces in the tourism industry would soon lose their jobs,” said its president Mohd Khalid Harun.
He also could not understand the government’s rationale for providing an RM1,000 Special Prihatin Grant for 20,000 traders and drivers in Sabah.
“Perhaps in the eyes of the government, traders outside of Sabah are still reaping profits,” he said.
He said the tourism industry’s main focus is the RM1 billion Penjana financing scheme announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin in June, but even then, banks seem reluctant to extend loans.
“Tourism players feel played by financial institutions because five months after it was announced, applications for only three percent of the fund have been approved,” he said, urging the Tourism Ministry to take over the management of the fund instead.
Khalid also questioned the government’s plan to provide training for former airline employees, pointing out that it still leaves hospitality workers in a lurch should they be laid off.
He added that tour bus companies also need a solution in the face of possible bankruptcy, as they need to repay the loans taken for the purchase of their vehicles.
“Is it possible that tourism will go to the grave with Budget 2021? Is there still hope for the tourism industry in Malaysia?” he asked.
OYO Malaysia country head Tan Ming Luk also voiced disappointment over the budget over its lack of incentives to stimulate domestic tourism, though he welcomed other initiatives Tengku Zafrul had announced.
“One of the key aims of suggestions in our wish list was to stimulate domestic tourism through the issuance of digital tourism vouchers and a temporary waiver of all sales and service taxes and licensing fees for one year.
“We had previously proposed these as we believe that the digital tourism vouchers would have benefited businesses in the tourism supply chain, notably in the food and beverages sector where many are owned and operated by the M40 and B40 groups.
“The temporary waiver of all sales and service taxes meanwhile would have put more working capital in the hands of small and medium enterprises for them to weather the economic downturn,” he said yesterday.
Yesterday, Tengku Zafrul announced several initiatives in his budget speech that are aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the tourism industry.
This included an RM50 million allocation to provide training and placements for 8,000 airline company employees and a separate initiative to provide job opportunities for 500 people in local and Orang Asli communities to become tour guides at national parks.
RM50 million will be channelled to repair tourism facilities, and another RM20 million will be provided to improve infrastructure and promote Cultural Villages in Terengganu, Malacca, Sarawak and Negeri Sembilan. In addition, RM10 million will be allocated to preserve national heritage buildings.
RM35 million will be allocated to the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council to help boost the health tourism industry; and RM1,000 will be paid to 20,000 hawkers and traders in Sabah in addition to taxi drivers, e-hailing, rental cars, and tour drivers in the state.
The Human Resource Development Fund will also exempt the tourism sector and other companies affected by Covid-19 from paying levies for six months from Jan 1 next year. - Mkini
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