Study implications before having departure levy, says Matta

Tourism associations say the government has not approached them for feedback and fear any new tax will burden tourists.

PETALING JAYA: A major tourism body says without a proper study the departure levy, likely to be imposed in September, may hit arrival of tourists and make Malaysia a less competitive destination.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said the government needs to get feedback from the stakeholders on the consequences and how it intends to collect the tax.

However, he regretted that the government has yet to reach out to the stakeholders, including his association, to get their views.

“In fact, they should call for a meeting and brief the industry.

“We look for a seamless collection system for the convenience of air passengers.

“How will the payment be made? At airports? Through the airlines? We don’t know,” he told FMT.

Yesterday, Deputy Finance Minister Amiruddin Hamzah said the departure levy for air travellers was likely to be implemented after the haj season in September.

The levy, proposed in Budget 2019, was originally scheduled for implementation on June 1.

Tan quoted statistics given by Tourism Malaysia chairman Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau previously, saying that Malaysia recorded RM21.4 billion in tourism revenue in the first quarter of this year, achieving a growth of 16.9%.

‘‘Overall, 25.8 million tourists visited Malaysia and spent RM84.1 billion last year.

“The results have placed Malaysia in 15th place among the countries with the highest number of tourist arrivals.

“Malaysia is also in 21st place in terms of revenue from tourism.”

With such huge tourism receipts, Tan said Malaysia should market itself as being a more “tourist-friendly destination” rather than collecting less than RM1 billion in departure levy.

He said it would be best to implement the departure levy in 2021, after “Visit Malaysia 2020”.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis echoed these remarks, saying he was also in the dark as the government had failed to reach out to his body.

“I am still waiting,” he said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) immediate past president Sam Cheah Swee said the government should remove the tourism tax if it introduces the departure levy.

“Are we going to be a country that will tax tourists in every area and every chance it gets?”

According to statistics, he said there was a drop recorded in occupancy in hotels in the first quarter of this year.

“The tourism minister says there is an increase in the number of tourists but our statistics show hotel occupancy is down.”