KOTA KINABALU: Domestic tourism and national economy is set to improve with the exemption of Tourism Tax for Malaysians, said Datuk Masidi Manjun.
The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister said the scrapping of the proposed tourism tax for Malaysians was great news for the domestic tourism as it would definitely encourage Malaysians to travel within their own country.
"The tourism industry of Malaysia has proven to be resilient even during bad economic times.
"In fact, the tourism industry has been the saviour of our national economy during challenging economic times," he said, adding that people still travelled whether times were good or bad.
Masidi said holidaymakers tend to choose a destination depending on their financial capacity and in most cases, would opt for domestic holidays when it comes to family vacations.
"I must say we have better attractions compared to many other countries in the world," he added.
Masidi said the real returns from a booming tourism industry are wealth creation and a strong national economy.
He added that when tourism-related companies make money, they expand their business activities and create new jobs for locals.
Masidi said the spillover benefits were enormous and it was the government's job to help these companies make money by making it easier for them to do business.
"When they succeed, they in turn will contribute to making Malaysia a more resilient and prosperous economy," he stated.
He said more effort needed to be put into encouraging domestic travel.
"Sabah is endowed with some of the best of nature's creations.
"There are over 400 domestic flights weekly between Kota Kinabalu and the rest of the country and air connectivity has ceased to be a problem," he added.
He said at present, two thirds of tourists who visit Sabah are Malaysians who, like the foreign tourists, also contribute to the tourist dollars.
Therefore, Masidi said travel barriers including unnecessary taxes should be abolished to encourage Malaysians to travel within their own country.
"Other countries are taking or have taken steps to ease travel restrictions to entice tourists to visit their country," he said.
"Thailand is a good example. Tourism is booming despite occasional domestic hiccups because tourists find travelling to Thailand hassle free," he added.
Earlier Wednesday, Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz announced that Malaysians will be fully exempted from paying the Tourism Tax which is expected to be implemented on Aug 1.Nazri, however, said that foreign tourists will be charged a flat rate of RM10 per night and per room for all types of hotels and accommodation.