Consider incentives to revive tourism industry

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah tourism players are hoping the government will continue to provide assistance to them in Budget 2023 to the sector.

Sabah Association of Travel and Tour Agents chairman Datuk Seri Winston Liaw said the federal budget, which is to be tabled early next month, should include incentives and subsidies.

“This is so that our tourism players can acquire more funding to promote tourism abroad, targeting high-end tourists particularly for health and wellness tourism,” he said yesterday.

Liaw also urged the government to instruct Bank Negara to give the tourism industry in Sabah another six-month moratorium since only about 30% of the industry has recovered.

“Banks are pressuring industry players to repay the loans, and they are unable to accommodate them due to many other commitments. This time of the year is more difficult than 2020 and 2021,” he said.

Sabah Tourist Association chairman Tonny Chew said the government should think about encouraging the industry not only to recover but flourish after the pandemic when preparing Budget 2023.

“The Sabah tourism industry used to be one of the biggest contributors to the state as well as the national economy.

“We don’t expect the government to spoon-feed us, but we need help to get back to that level,” he said.

Chew said what tourism operators needed was for the financial sector to have a friendlier package for the players.

“The banking sector needs to help out. If they can’t approve the loans, then operators can’t restart their businesses fully, or worse, they won’t be able to continue at all.

“What’s the use of reopening the border if tourism players are unable to provide their services because they don’t have the funds to, for example, pay their workers or renew permits or insurance?” said Chew, who argued the government will not lose by pumping money into the tourism industry.

“Eventually, the whole world will be travelling again, so the money spent by the government can definitely be recouped.

“It’s a win-win for the government as well as the tourism sector,” he said.

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