MATTA calls for details on Penjana mechanism

KUCHING: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) welcomes the various initiatives to the support tourism sector under the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday.

Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang however said more details on the mechanism of the Penjana Tourism Financing (PTF) facility were needed.

“We seek details on the mechanism of the PTF facility where we are looking at extremely low interest rates for digitalisation under the new norm, where most procedures and sales are contactless and done on e-marketing platforms.

“Also, in order to remain competitive, investment in health and safety protocols is necessary to boost travellers’ confidence and simultaneously safeguard both employees and tourists,” he said in press statement issued on Saturday.

He also said to date, under the Special Relief Facility (SRF) fund, the association was given to understand that there had been no drawdown yet for the tourism players under the previous Economic Stimulus Package.

“Members have complained that they were either disqualified for the fund or the allocation has been fully used up. Therefore, we hope that the government will monitor and supervise this funding facility to ensure fairness to all,” he said.

Tan also welcomed the tourism tax and service tax exemption for accommodation services extended to June 30, 2021 which is to boost travel demand.

“It may not pose any positive effect due to weak demand in the next six months, but we anticipate it will help spur travel interests for 2021 especially when regional and international borders open up,” he said.

He also said the extension of the period for income tax relief of RM1,000 for tourism expenses is a good move to rejuvenate the local tourism industry, but the conditions should also include spouse and children.

“The eligibility should also be limited to tour packages bought from licensed travel agents and tour operators which include hotels, tours and transfers to ensure effectiveness,” he said.

On the extension period for deferment of tax installment for tourism industry, Tan said it would be more helpful if taxes made payable for year of assessment 2019 was set off against current period losses. For the year of assessment 2020, what is there to defer since tourism companies are in a tax loss position, he asked.

“As tourism companies were in a tax loss position, they would also not be able to enjoy tax relief or incentives for Covid-19 testing and purchase of personal protection equipment (PPE) and thermal scanners, and renovation of business premises. Government grants or subsidies would be more appropriate under these circumstances,” he pointed out.

On the extension of the Wage Subsidy Programme by three months, Tan said this had to be reviewed as the tourism industry would only recover by the end of the year, and hoped the government would continue with the staff retention programme.

“We are thankful for the support from the government. However, we hope that the government would address more pertinent issues to prevent the aviation, hospitality and travel industry being further decimated under the current scenario.

“More importantly, the government should also swiftly determine a timeline to begin tourism activities including tentative dates on the easing of borders, said Tan.