THE Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) wants the government to consider tax exemption as one of the ways to help the beleaguered tourist industry overcome the impact of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak.
“It will be the biggest stimulus for domestic tourism if what Malaysians spend on holiday programmes endorsed by Tourism Malaysia could be exempted from tax,'' MAH (Penang chapter) chairman Eric Lim told StarBiz.
MAH is working with the relevant tourism bodies to come up with value-added accommodation packages aimed at boosting domestic tourism.
Lim said the formulation of such special holiday packages, which were more attractive than the normal ones, was based on one of the strategies recently recommended by a marketing and promotional task force comprising representatives from MAH, the Tourism Ministry, domestic airlines and Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agencies (MATTA).
“The other proposed strategy is for domestic travel agencies and airlines to introduce attractively priced airfares with local tour content.
“We expect these proposals to be approved soon by the respective bodies involved,” he said.
Eric added that due to the SARS outbreak, business had declined about 28% last month for the association’s members in Penang. These also comprised star-rated hotels.
“If the proposals of the task force are implemented, we are confident that we will be able to arrest the decline of our business. Since 2001, the arrival of domestic tourists to Penang has increased by 50% per year.
“The number of guests from other states staying in star-rated hotels has also increased correspondingly,” he said.
While waiting for the proposals to be approved by the tourism ministry, hotels in Penang are implementing their own promotions.
“For example, Cititel Hotel, in conjunction with its fifth anniversary, is giving out cash redemption vouchers of RM25 for a night's stay till December.
“The voucher can also be used at the Pan Pacific Resort in Pulau Pangkor, Micasa All-Suite Hotels in Kuala Lumpur, and Cititel in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.
Association members in Penang were also implementing cost containment programmes. “We are reviewing our supply, and how we can reduce our orders and wastage in view of the decline in tourist arrivals,” he said.
“We are also instructing staff to clear their annual leave and to take no-pay leave if necessary. There are no immediate plans to lay off any workers, although we have to plan for such an eventuality,” he added.
In Petaling Jaya, ELAINE ANG reports that Sunway Lagoon Resort Hotel's current strategy was to promote domestic tourism as there was still a good portion of people willing to travel.
Its marketing director, Farizal Jaafar, said the hotel was offering value-added packages – for example, hotel room with theme park tickets – to attract guests. “We also adhere to rigid and strict procedures in cleaning the hotel and its rooms,” he said.
Farizal said that now was the best time for families and corporations to stay, or even organise training, in hotels as attractive packages were usually offered when business was slow.
“We are optimistic that with the help of the government and other tourism bodies in giving assurances to the public on the SARS outbreak, there will be a snowballing effect, and assist in boosting business,” he said, adding that the government was also encouraging its ministries to hold their functions in hotels.
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