‘Help us survive outbreak’

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 11 Feb 2020

Dos and Don’ts: Officers from the Health Ministry distributing leaflets on the coronavirus to arriving passengers at KLIA2. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Reeling from the effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak, tourism industry players have asked the government for help in the form of cost reductions, incentives and funds.

Among the proposed steps is a temporary stop to the collection of the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) levy and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributions by employers.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) honorary secretary-general Nigel Wong said the reduction or temporary suspension of the mandatory HRDF and EPF payments would allow industry players to better manage their cash flow.

“We have also requested either Bank Negara or the Finance Ministry help reduce or defer our monthly loan payments.

“This is important because many travel agencies have loans to service. “By suspending debt collection, it can help operators manage their cash flow and retain their infrastructure, ” said Wong.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng yesterday met tourism industry stakeholders to discuss the impact of the outbreak and get input on the government’s proposed economic stimulus package.

He chaired the meeting, also attended by representatives of other ministries and agencies.

Wong said it was pivotal for industry players to retain their infrastructure, manpower and cash flow as it would help the sector once business picks up after the situation returns to normal.

MATTA also proposed a fund or matching grants be given to prompt industry stakeholders to promote Malaysia as a safe destination.

Wong said the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry should also review its target markets to encourage the inflow of tourists.

“The ministry should continue to promote Malaysia to China despite the soft take-up now.

“But it is time to get tourists who have postponed travel plans to China to instead come to Malaysia as it is safe, viable and affordable, ” he added.

MATTA also proposed incentives for chartered flights for other potential markets such as India and elsewhere in the Asean region.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said his association proposed a temporary exemption from the minimum wage law for three months effective February.

“While the hotel industry understands the Minimum Wage Order 2020’s intention is to benefit the people, it would also be an added burden for the industry given its high number of employees.

“The industry is requesting an exemption for hotels registered with the ministry, for three months effective February 2020.

“The industry will comply with the order by May, ” he said.

Yap added that the MAH was also hoping for discounts on utility bills.

“The hotel industry seeks the government’s intervention to instruct a 10% discount on water bills for hotels effective February for a duration of six months.

“We (are also) appealing for intervention to instruct an immediate suspension of maximum demand charges for hotels and extend a 15% discount on electricity bill for hotels effective February for a duration of six months.

“The hotel industry would also like to apply for an industry tariff instead of a standard commercial tariff, ” he said.

Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Datuk Seri Garry Chua meanwhile praised the Finance Ministry and tourism ministry for engaging with industry players on the challenges they faced.

He said the business sector needed assistance in terms of bank loans in the coming months due to the outbreak.

“We have proposed that perhaps the banks and other financial institutions could help by requiring us to pay only the interest over the next six months.

“If they can’t, they should look into giving soft loans to those that are badly affected, ” he said.

He added that his association spoke about the measures that could be taken to attract more tourists from other regions, such as Asean and the Middle East.

“We have lost in terms of numbers and need to be more active in our marketing, ” he said.

Chua said local players also need to project a “more positive sentiment” in the international market.

“It will not augur well if we do not set the tone properly.

“We must not panic and create situations such as panic buying. This will not be good and will further affect us, ” he added.

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