Matfa urges govt to draw up short, medium term plans to help revive ailing tourist industry

KUALA LUMPUR: The government should draw up a tourism recovery plan for the immediate and medium term to revive the ailing tourism industry, says the Malaysian Association of Amusement Theme Park and Family Attractions (Matfa).

Its president Tan Sri Richard CK Koh said best practices that have been adopted in various other countries such as Thailand and Europe should be used in the proposed recovery plan.

"The alternate consequences are taking a very heavy toll on our economic structure considering that tourism is the third largest GDP contributor. No one has been spared in the tourism industry.

"In 2019, employment in the tourism industry recorded 3.6 million people (2018: 3.5 million), which contributed 23.6% (2018: 23.5%) to total employment.

"Food and beverage services and retail trade were the main industries in tourism employment with a share of 34.7% and 32.5%, respectively.

"Both sub-sectors cumulatively contributed 67.2% to total tourism employment. What happens to these thousands of businesses and the 3.6 million people that we employ?

"We ask the government to address some of these issues as a part of the tourism recovery plan," he said in a statement on Tuesday (June 29).

Koh called for a three-pronged approach for the recovery plan; financial support and easing of cash flow, statutory exemptions and proactive and inclusive actions on the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

"We appreciate the government for having allocated RM1bil for the Penjana Tourism Sector Financing Programme to help SMEs and micro-SMEs affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"However, the programme remains a low-impact initiative. According to the 57th Laksana Report, the latest, only 6.5% of the amount was utilised. The report said that as of June 4, there were 666 applications for funding under the programme, and out of that, 327 applications have been approved with total funding of RM65.1mil.

"We seek a straightforward programme to be managed and distributed by a single agency under the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac). Currently, it is vested in the hands of 12 commercial and development banks. We need converged single-window management of this fund," he added.

Koh said the association also called for the freeze of statutory obligations involving tourism until Dec 31.

"There are tourism-specific related statutory obligations such as annual licence renewals and also routine vehicle inspections for the commercial tourist buses.

"It also includes, but is not limited to, EPF, Socso, EIS, SST, Quit Rent, Assessment, SSM submissions, income tax installments and Foreign Worker Levy payments.

"The private sector should work closely with the government in coming up with comprehensive SOPs.

"The potential of MySejahtera and the Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system should be maximised to come up with proactive measures.

"HIDE needs to be more transparent so we know what parameters are being measured. It cannot be punitive, but rather incentivized. Let Motac be the anchoring ministry for these initiatives.

"We again ask that the core of the tourism industry such as theme parks, spas, wellness centres, cinemas, and family entertainment centres be allowed to open together with shopping malls, resorts and hotels in Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan.

"If the government still decides to keep all these businesses on the negative list, there should be help in the form of financial aid, accelerated wage subsidies, utility discounts and relaxed tax obligations, among others," he said.

Koh said Matfa thanked the government for some of the assistance in the Pemulih stimulus package that has been extended to the tourism industry – the one-off payment of RM3,000 for the 5,335 tour agencies involving an outlay of RM16mil and the exemption for tourism tax and service tax until the end of this year.

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