National budget fails Malaysia’s tourism

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 February 2023: A major revamp of Malaysia’s national budget 2023 should be an urgent priority if the country’s tourism industry is to stay competitive, says the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).

In a press statement released last Friday, MATTA called for a major overhaul of the National Budget 2023 to revitalise Malaysian tourism businesses in the face of fierce competition and global economic concerns.

“From 2009 to 2019, international tourist arrivals ranged between 23.65 million and 26.1 million, indicating that Malaysia remains a largely static tourism destination, except a one-time high of 27.44 million arrivals in 2014 owing to Visit Malaysia Year 2014, said MATTA President Datuk Tan Kok Liang.

“It is evident that earlier national budgets were ineffective in boosting the country’s tourism sector and placing it in a ‘comfort zone’ whilst other ASEAN destinations experienced extremely high growth rates”.

“MATTA proposes that budget financing must be more focused on ‘destination visibility’ advertising, as well as the enhancement of tourist products and infrastructure, while at the same time providing enough assistance for tourism stakeholders to strengthen in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic. Additional initiatives are required to promote domestic tourism, as a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels is not anticipated until 2024 or 2025.”

 He claimed there was a “lack of iconic tourism products for several years, and the government ought to provide more attractive incentives other than the traditional tax incentives such as pioneer status or investment tax allowance to encourage tourism investments”.

MATTA has submitted a comprehensive budget proposal to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and Ministry of Finance, which includes the following pointers:

There is an urgent need to establish an independent Tourism Recovery & Growth Fund to ensure the availability of funds to assist tourism businesses in upgrading their facilities and service infrastructure.

Digital Promotions Matching Grant and Overseas Promotions Funding to compensate for a weakened Malaysian currency.

Allow double deductions for corporate companies to hold staff incentive trips and holidays for their employees within the country rather than in foreign destinations.

Tax relief of MYR5,000 for individual taxpayers and their families to spend on domestic travel within Malaysia will further enhance domestic tourism.

Exemption of excise duty when purchasing new, locally produced tourism vehicles. Severe economic hardship has caused many operators to dispose of their vehicles to avoid bankruptcy and, in the process, has severely depleted our tourism fleet capacity. This will benefit local vehicle manufacturers and enable tourism operators to rebuild fleet capacity quickly to meet the anticipated demand as tourism recovers.

MATTA recommends a remission of import duties on foreign-made luxury automobiles. This is to ensure that tourism vehicles are suitable for more affluent (higher yield) tourists and shifting customer preferences and to maintain our competitive edge.

KLIA requires a new satellite that satisfies today’s global security requirements and can better facilitate passengers’ efficient mobility between passenger terminals.

“The current state of the aerotrain service and the backup bus service leaves much to be desired. This offers a poor first impression of the nation, said Tan.

“We have been losing ground to nearby competitors such as Singapore, Bangkok, and Jakarta. Likewise, Langkawi is losing out to Phuket and Bali for the same obvious reasons. Despite knowing that our tropical climate can be either excessively hot or wet, the comfort of passengers is not given adequate consideration.”

“To increase arrivals from high-potential source markets, in particular India and China, it is necessary to revamp existing visa procedures which includes the introduction of multiple-entry visas valid for one year, Visa-on-arrival (VOA) facilities, and lower visa costs. To revitalise the tourism industry, the national government could also consider investing more funds towards the launch of VISIT Malaysia Year 2024,” concluded Tan.

(Source: MATTA)