Incentive for domestic tourism

GEORGE TOWN: The personal income tax relief of up to RM1,000 for domestic tourism expenses will inject life into the sector but industry players are hoping for this to be “refined”.

“The government needs to allow for this to include expenses spent on spouses and children too.

“To protect the service quality, the tax relief should only be allowed for expenses spent through licensed travel agents.

“We hope that hotel stays, tours and transfers will be included, ” said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Datuk KL Tan.

He also described the waiver on tourism and service taxes for accommodation services until next June as a welcome boost.

“We are looking forward to extremely low-interest rates for digitalisation as most procedures under the new norms call for contactless and e-marketing platforms, ” he said.

“To remain competitive, investments in health and safety protocols are needed to boost travellers’ confidence and protect both employees and tourists, ” he added.

However, Tan said most tourism players had yet to receive funds under the wage subsidy programme although their applications were approved.

“We hope there are effective supervision and monitoring of the subsidy programme.

“The extension of the wage subsidy by three months should be reviewed because we expect the tourism industry to recover only by year-end, ” he said.

Association of Tourist Attractions Penang (Atap) chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng said as long as these sites were not allowed to open, no amount of wage subsidies and tax rebates will help.

“As long as we are not allowed to open, we continue to suffer and many of our members are on the verge of closing down.

“It is unfair to allow supermarkets, hotels and public parks to open but not attractions such as museums, private parks and gardens, ” he said.

Ch’ng said Atap members had worked out ways to reopen in the new normal.

“We are willing to accept visitors and customers by appointment only and not allow walk-ins.

“We know this is a good way to control the number of people entering our establishments in the new normal, ” he said, adding that members were all set to offer Penangites 50% discounts.

“It will be the best chance for Penangites to experience the attractions in their own state without the crowd of tourists from elsewhere.

“We even have a special package for frontliners in the Covid-19 fight. We have the manpower to ensure physical distancing, ” he said.

“Penang’s attractions are not like giant theme parks with rides and activities where physical distancing would be difficult, ” he added.

Ch’ng, who is also Penang Arts Society chairman, hoped the government would also offer tax rebates to those buying artwork directly from artists.

“Artists have been suffering silently during the movement control order, ” he said.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that tourism businesses will continue to be exempted from making tax payments until the end of this year.

The tourism tax is exempted from next month until June next year while hotels are exempted from the service tax until next June.