THE tourism sector got a big boost in the Budget 2004 estimates where hotel and tourism project operators will receive pioneer status and investment tax allowance up to 100%.
Those that invest on expansion, modernisation and renovation will enjoy a second round of pioneer status whereby the income tax exemption would be increased to 100% from its previous 85%.
They can claim investment tax allowance of up to 100% from the previous 80%.
Other incentives include the proposal to get all hotel operators to work together to set up tourism information centres at all entry points, including airports as well as major railway stations to enable tourists to make hotel reservations upon arrival.
They were also encouraged to provide online reservation facilities and the Government would develop portals and provide access to these portals at airports, railway and bus stations throughout the country.
To boost tourist arrivals after months of devastation due to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Iraq war, the Government would pump in RM215mil for promotional activities to lure tourists from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India and Asean countries.
Efforts would also be intensified in the West Asian market and new markets such as Pakistan, Indo-China and New Zealand.
The Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) would be restructured to undertake a more systematic and effective marketing and communications programme.
The Government will also continue to undertake more effective tourism promotion efforts together with Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia as well as tour agencies.
Reliance Pacific Berhad group marketing director (travel division) Tan Sin Chong said the industry welcomed the government's move.
He said his company which helped to manage 21 hotels and owned three resorts in Malaysia would need this incentive for upgrading and expansion.
Tour operator Excellence Holidays managing director Ronald Chan said the Budget had been another round of good news for the industry.“The Government has been good to us. It hashelped us when the industry was badly hit by SARS in March and a RM1bil Special Relief Guarantee Facility (SRGF) is accorded to the industry.
“This means that the Government is recognising the efforts of the travel and tourism sector that will become a number one income earner for the country in time to come,'' said Chan, who is also vice-president of the Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agencies (Matta).
To complement the Malaysia, Truly Asia campaign, which not only reflected the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society but also the variety of Malaysian cuisine that has become a tourist attraction, the government would provide micro-credit facilities to enable traders to replace their stalls with pushcarts made of stainless steel as well as colourful canopies and proper tables and chairs ala Bintang Walk, Bangsar Baru and Mon’t Kiara, where tourists spend time along sidewalk cafes.
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