Make it easier to get financial aid for tourism projects, urges Guan Eng

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (second from left) and Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Chong Chieng Jen (first from left) at the press conference after the launching of the RM1 billion tourism infrastructure fund in Kuching today.

KUCHING: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has asked Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Berhad (BPMB) to make it easier for tourism industry players to gain financial assistance.

“This is especialy so when the projects are viable,” he said after launching the RM1 billion tourism infrastructure fund here today.

He said the bank could ease up on its collateral requirements for such projects.

BPMB will be offering competitive financing rates, from 4-5.5% per annum. Funds are available through Dec 31 or until the fund has been fully utilised.

The fund is available for all tourism infrastructure projects that can contribute to the development of the tourism industry, including hotels, convention centres, facilities related to education, medical or agro-tourism.

He said he believed the initiative could improve the tourism infrastructure in the country, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

“The fact that Malaysia is endowed with white sandy beaches, tropical islands and world heritage sites is simply not enough to draw a crowd.

“We still need world-class infrastructure to bring our visitors to the destination in relative ease. We need comfortable accommodations and other facilities to ensure their stay with us is a memorable one.”

Lim said both states had the potential to be developed into “lung-cleansing” tourism destinations due to their diversity in terms of flora and fauna.

He said “lung-cleansing” tourism destinations have become popular with tourists seeking fresher air.

“I believe both states can become the prime destinations not only in Malaysia but in Southeast Asia.”

Tourism tax

On another note, Lim also said the federal government had distributed 50% of the tourism tax revenue collected to all states, including RM2.5 million for Sarawak.

He said the Pakatan Harapan government had kept its promise to distribute these funds to all states.

Deputy Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Chong Chieng Jen, who attended the function, said Sarawak has a lot of “catching up” to do with Sabah in terms of tourism.

“Sarawak’s RM2.5 million share of the tourism tax means total collection in the state was only RM5 million.

“Sabah’s share of the tourism tax was RM12.5 million, meaning total tourism tax collection in Sabah was RM25 million.

“As a Sarawakian, I welcome the launch of this programme to create more awareness among local tourism industry players,” he said.

The RM10 per night tourism tax, enforced since Sept 1, 2017, applies to foreign tourists. It was reported that local tourists and permanent residents in Malaysia are exempted from the tax.