KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is disappointed that the 2021 Budget failed to provide solid relief programmes to protect jobs and businesses in the tourism sector, which is still struggling on its path to recovery.
Its president, Datuk Tan Kok Liang, said among other things, the Wage Subsidy Programmes should have been enhanced to avoid continued lay-offs.
He said the loan moratorium should have also been further extended to June 2021 for businesses involved in tourism.
"The 2021 Budget does not take into consideration the welfare of 3.6 million workers in this field and tourism small-medium enterprises (SMEs), given the vulnerable and fragile situation of the industry.
"It failed to meet the needs of tourism enterprises particularly the SMEs. It does not address the key issue of protecting jobs.
"The tourism industry, which includes components such as accommodation, travel agents, tour operators, transportation, food and beverage operators and many others contributes 15 per cent to the nation's gross domestic product. It is one of the top five sectors involving foreign exchange-earners and the sector employs more than 3.6 million people," he said in a statement.
Tan said the 2021 Budget does not include any incentive to boost domestic tourism, and he described it as inadequate to empower the industry during these challenging times.
"The allocation of RM50 million for maintenance works and overhaul of tourism facilities is not enough to improve tourism products.
"The future outlook for the next 12 months is bleak and without the right support, we will inevitably see the industry contracting quickly and drastically."
Tan urged the government to extend the allocation for reskilling and training meant for airline workers to those in the tourism industry.
He was referring to the RM50 million allocation under the 2021 Budget for the retraining programmes for 8,000 airline staff.
"We cannot help but compare the state of tourism in our country to other countries like Singapore, which has 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 industries.
"The 2021 Budget has not managed to address the industry's fundamental needs and we urge the government to reassess the support for the tourism industry in order to harness the potential of the industry to generate jobs and growth and continue to contribute to the economy," he said.
During the tabling of the budget in Dewan Rakyat today, Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said RM50 million was allocated for the maintenance and restoration of tourism facilities nationwide, while RM35 million was channeled for the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council.
He also said that 500 jobs would be created for the Orang Asli and local communities to become tour guides in all national parks.
There is also a special RM1,000 grant for traders, taxi drivers, e-hailing drivers and tour guides in Sabah.
Tengku Zafrul also said there will be Human Resource Development Fund levy exemptions for companies in the tourism sector and those still affected by Covid-19 for six months.