More details needed, says MATTA president

KUALA LUMPUR: THE initiatives spelt out in the government's Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) to support the tourism sector and its employees will enable it to ride through challenging times brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said while the initiatives would benefit the sector, more details were needed, such as on the mechanism involving the Penjana Tourism Financing (PTF) facility.

"We are looking at extremely low interest rates for digitalisation as under the new norm, most procedures and sales are contactless and are based on e-marketing platforms.

"Also, to remain competitive, investment in health and safety protocols (are essential) to boost travellers' confidence and protect both employees and tourists alike," he told the New Straits Times.

Penjana, short for Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara (Economic Recovery Plan), offers a provision of PTF funding facility for the tourism sector, specifically to its small and medium enterprises segment to finance transformation initiatives, enabling them to remain viable and competitive in the new normal.

Details of the RM1 billion PTF will be announced by the government next month.

Tan said effective supervision and monitoring of the funding facility were required to ensure it reached people on the ground.

"As of today (yesterday), even the Special Relief Facility (SRF) funds have yet to see a draw-down although applications were being approved. Now, another RM1 billion (approved for PTF)."

Meanwhile, he welcomed the tourism tax exemption from July 1 to June 30 next year, extension of service tax exemption for hotels up to June 30 next year, and the RM1,000 income tax relief for tourism which was extended to Dec 31.

This, he said, would boost travel demand.

Tan called on the government to review the Wage Subsidy Programme, which he said should be extended until year-end instead of merely for another three months, as the tourism industry required a longer recovery period.

Under Penjana, the Wage Subsidy Programme will be extended for a further three months with a subsidy of RM600 per employee for all eligible employers.

The current wage subsidy programme will be enhanced to allow employers receiving wage subsidy to implement a reduced work week (for example, a four-day work week with a reduced pay of 20 per cent).

It will also allow employers to receive wage subsidy for employees on unpaid leave, subject to employees receiving the subsidy directly, which is only applicable for the tourism sector and businesses that are prohibited from operating during the Conditional Movement Control Order.