THE Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is delighted with the RM20bil economic stimulus package announced by then interim Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad last Friday, which will help mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, which has severely affected the tourism industry.
The comprehensive package covers many sectors and includes requests made by MATTA and key stakeholders for the tourism industry, such as discounts for electricity bills; lowering the minimum contribution to the Employees Provident Fund; exemption from the Human Resource Development Fund levy; banks to provide financial relief with payment moratoriums comprising restructuring and rescheduling loans across the board; special loans for small and medium enterprises for working capital; property owners to lower rental rates; matching grants for tourism personnel training; subsidies to enhance digital skills and marketing; personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 on expenditure related to domestic tourism (although MATTA had asked for RM2,000).
The personal income tax relief up to RM1,000 for domestic tourism will help rejuvenate the local tourism industry. MATTA proposes that the eligibility be limited to tour packages purchased from companies licensed by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, and to resident taxpayers and their spouses or children.
MATTA is gratified by the compassion shown to tourism frontliners severely impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak with the one-off payment of RM600 to taxi drivers, tourist bus drivers, tourist guides and registered trishaw drivers. The 2020 Economic Stimulus Package lives up to its theme of “Bolstering Confidence, Stimulating Growth and Protecting Jobs”.
MATTA had previously identified the same three-pronged approach that is now incorporated in the package. They are: mitigate the cash flow crunch, assist those severely impacted, and stimulate demand for travel and tourism.
In regard to stimulating local travel and tourism, the MATTA Fair “Cuti-Cuti Malaysia”, to be held from April 4 to 5, was swiftly organised to promote domestic travel.
MATTA is also happy with the deferment of monthly income
tax instalment payments for businesses in the tourism sector, exemption of 6% service tax for hotels, and digital vouchers for domestic tourism of up to RM100 per person for domestic flights, rail travel and hotel accommodations for all Malaysians.
Although MATTA had requested several other measures, such as granting free visas to Indian tourists and double tax deductions for local companies for sending staff to meetings, incentive tours, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) events to be included in the economic stimulus package, the priority now is for all to start working on recovery measures.
With concerted efforts, it will be much swifter.
DATUK TAN KOK LIANG , President, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA)