Clear mechanism needed for tour bus operators, say stakeholders

PETALING JAYA: A clear and fixed mechanism is needed in the proposal to assist tour bus operators from incurring losses, say industry players.

The sector has appealed to the government to add tour buses to the list of 33 categories of vehicles eligible for diesel subsidies following the fuel rationalisation move that took effect on Monday.

Malaysian Tourism Federation president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said he hopes that tour buses are included in the Subsidised Diesel Control System 2.0 (SKDS) for at least a year as it allows the operators to maintain the prices they have contractually committed to, from April 1, 2024, to March 31, 2025.

“Please consider our appeal, as we also contribute significantly as a key foreign revenue earner for the nation,” he said yesterday.

As the tourism industry is still recovering from pre-pandemic levels, Tan said concerted efforts and assistance are much needed for it to stay competitive in the region.

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil, who is the unity government spokesman, said the government would explore ways to assist tour bus operators.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Nigel Wong said it is preparing a proposal for submission to the government.

“The government can consider a mechanism that ensures we won’t incur losses that are too high due to our previously-signed tour contracts,” he said.

Wong explained that tourism operators have honoured signed agreements predating the rationalisation of diesel subsidies and could incur losses due to the weekly floated rates.

Inbound Tourism Alliance chairman Uzaidi Udanis also noted that tour bus operators are committed to pre-agreed arrangements despite the rise in diesel prices.

“There should be some form of allocation or exemption to allow the sector to cope. The diesel subsidy rationalisation is something difficult to bear because the industry is still readjusting after the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

Peninsular Malaysia Tour Bus Operators’ Association president Steven Chong said the government must come out with a clear mechanism and fixed time frame for them.

“Any form of help is better than nothing at all. But when will the help come? In two days, two weeks or two months?

“We need a clear direction to enable us to plan ahead,” he said.

Chong said it is not entirely accurate to say that tour bus operators are not eligible for aid because they deal mainly with foreign tourists.

Some of our members, particularly those in the east coast states like Terengganu and Kelantan, ferry locals.

“Their passengers are Muslims who need to travel to the airports in order to perform the haj and other pilgrimages such as the umrah,” he said.

Presently, said Chong, members have no choice but to absorb the increase in fuel costs for bookings made before the diesel subsidy rationalisation was implemented.

“We are absorbing the extra cost because we want to protect the good name of the country and our tourism sector,” he added.

Chong said that operating costs for tour bus services would rise by 30% and the recent announcement had disrupted services provided by some 150 members of the association.

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