GEORGE TOWN: Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) wants the government to give tax and other fiscal incentives to lure cruise ships to homeport in Penang instead of Singapore.
This is one of the items on the wishlist for next year’s national budget.
MATTA president Datuk K.L. Tan said travel agents should also get tax incentives for selling cruise packages for ships that were homeported in Swettenham Pier here or Boustead Cruise Centre (BCC) in Pulau Indah, Port Klang.
“When a cruise ship homeports in Malaysia, the spillover benefits are immediate.
“There is the handling, docking, engineering, maintenance, supplies, refuelling, crew support, security and more.
“For travel agents, we handle the travel arrangements for thousands of cruise tourists who fly in to board the ships,” he said.
In the case of Swettenham Pier, which is on the coastline of George Town Unesco World Heritage Site, Tan said the appeal was tremendous and should be harnessed.
“We submitted our recommendations to the Finance Ministry in August and hope it will look into developing cruise tourism seriously,” he said.
Penang was the homeport of Superstar Libra – a 10-deck cruise ship – from 2010 to July 2015 when it left to make Xiamen, China, its home.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who was the chief minister then, had called on the Transport Ministry to woo the ship back to Penang because tourism players here feared a drastic drop in revenue without it.
Superstar Libra made Penang its homeport again in September 2016 and a year later, changed to a triple homeport deployment, using BCC and Phuket as well.
On Friday, the even larger Superstar Gemini, with 13 decks, announced that it would operate from multiple home ports – BCC, Penang, Langkawi and Phuket.
Tan was speaking to reporters at the MATTA Fair Penang that was launched by state exco member Zairil Khir Johari representing Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.
Even bigger than prior years, the fair in SPICE Arena boasts 64 exhibitors, ranging from tour and travel agents, hotels and theme parks, to government agencies and banks.
There are also 13 booths offering pilgrimage tours for Muslims to perform their haj.
MATTA chief executive officer Phua Tai Neng said he was delighted to observe that Penangites showed interest in exotic places including Africa, Bhutan, Adriatic and Dalmatian Coast.
One of the exhibitors was seen promoting an eight-day trip to Kenya to see the wildebeest migration, priced from RM13,088.
Another exhibitor offered an eight-day ice fishing expedition to South Korea for RM4,288.
The fair ends at 9pm today and visitors who spend at least RM200 to buy travel packages are entitled to join the buyers’ contest and win air tickets and travel vouchers to numerous destinations.
There are daily lucky draws with more flight tickets to be won, while the first 200 who spend at least RM2,000 in a single receipt at the fair gets a ‘Gold Coast, Australia Tour’ voucher each.
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