RM1 billion Penjana tourism financing must be fairly distributed to tourism sector

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has welcomed the various initiatives under the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) which was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday.

MATTA president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the plan puts into focus recovery supports which were also extended towards tourism SMEs.

He said that the RM1 billion Penjana Tourism Financing (PTF) facility which will be made available to finance transformation initiatives by SMEs in the tourism industry was one of the good initiatives.

"We seek details on the mechanism of the PTF facility where we are looking at extremely low interest rates or interest free loans for digitalisation under the new norm where most procedures and sales are contactless, and are also done extensively through 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 a statement today.

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

He said tourism players had also complained that they were either disqualified for the fund or the allocation had been fully used up.

Tan is hopeful that the government will monitor and supervise this funding facility to ensure fairness to all.

"The tourism tax and service tax exemption for accommodation services extended to 30 June 2021 are also welcomed to boost travel demand. It may not pose any positive effect due to weak demand in the next 6 months, but we anticipate it will help spur travel interests for 2021 especially when regional and international borders open up," he said.

He said additionally, 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."

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?"

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 and thermal scanners, and renovation of business premises. Government grants or subsidies would be more appropriate under these circumstances, he said.

On the extension of the Wage Subsidy Programme by three months. Tan said the move needs to be reviewed as the tourism industry would only recover by the end of the year.

Likewise, he hoped that 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.

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/06/598479/rm1-billion-penjana-tourism-financing-must-be-fairly-distributed-tourism