Tourism players in Malaysia are finding some relief in the slew of initiatives and assistance under the Pemerkasa stimulus package announced by the government earlier this week.
But what brought greater cheer to tourism operators was the impending removal of the nationwide movement control order (MCO), which will see the Malaysian government adopting a more strategic approach based on science and data to control the spread of Covid-19.
The move to ease travel restrictions in the country has been met with support from The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), which has been advocating the application of an analytical risk-based approach towards managing peoples’ movements as opposed to blanket travel restrictions.
Tan Kok Liang, the association president, commented, “MATTA has been in constant engagement with the government since the start of the pandemic and we are happy that the announcement is in line with MATTA’s proposals. The industry is also looking forward to the managed reopening of international borders now that the vaccine rollout is underway."
Like several other agents Travel Weekly Asia spoke to, Hamzah Rahmat, director at Discova Malaysia, said the stimulus packages will go some way in aiding travel operators although they were not enough to tide over the past year of losses.
He hopes more could be done in the near future as the Malaysian government realises the importance of the tourism industry for the country.
To help revive the ailing travel sector Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin included a one-off Special Assistance Grant of RM3,000 (US$728) for 5,000 tour agencies registered under the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (MOTAC).
Another RM700 million was set aside for the extension of the wage subsidy programme for an additional three months for companies involved in tourism, retail and wholesale trade.
Tax incentives for tour operators will be extended until the year of assessment 2022 and deferment is allowed for payment of monthly income tax installments from April to 31 December 2021 to tourism companies among other selected operators.
Meanwhile, the scope of the individual (consumer) income tax relief of up to RM1,000 is now expanded to include purchase of travel packages from travel agents registered under MOTAC.
The levy payable to the Human Resource Development Fund will also be exempted for affected companies in the tourism and retail sectors till June 2021.
To further assist with cash flow and reduce business operation costs for travel and tourism agencies, hotels, theme parks, local airline offices, convention centres and shopping malls, the government is also giving a special 10% electricity discount for another three months till 30 June.
Other tourism-related incentives include an extension of exemption for tourism tax and services tax for hotel accommodation until 31 December 2021 and entertainment duty exemption for entrance fees into entertainment premises which includes theme parks in all Federal Territories.