Hotels, tour operators give thumbs up for stimulus package announced by Dr M

Hotels nationwide are among those bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 epidemic following restrictions on tourists from China. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Hotel and tour operators have given the thumbs up to the Covid-19 stimulus package announced by interim Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, saying they are happy that almost all of their proposals have been taken up by the government.

Speaking to FMT, Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis described it as one of the best stimulus packages the industry could have hoped for.

“We are happy that Mita’s suggestions and proposals were considered. All of our suggestions were included. In fact, other positive initiatives we did not suggest were included,” he said, citing the example of the one-off RM600 cash aid to taxi drivers, tour bus operators, tour guides and trishaw riders.

Uzaidi said the various measures such as the tax incentives, restructuring of loans and postponements of repayments to banks and so on would help ease the cash flow of tourism industry players.

“With this stimulus package, we can be more resilient. Tour operators should adjust their strategy accordingly and aim for more lower hanging fruit while waiting for the market to recover.”

Malaysian Association of Hotels CEO Yap Lip Seng said overall, they were happy with the stimulus package.

“While it may not completely address current challenges, the commitment by the government is encouraging,” he said in a statement.

“The stimulus package addresses our two main concerns directly, that is to ease cash flow and financial burden as well as to drive tourism.”

Yap said they were happy that the personal income tax relief, which they had proposed to the finance ministry for the past two years to be included as part of the national budget, would be introduced as it would directly benefit the people.

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang described the stimulus package as “comprehensive and holistic”, and benefitted the people as a whole and not just the tourism industry.

“Almost all the recommendations proposed by Matta together with other lead industry bodies have been taken into account by the government and meets the expectations of the industry,” he said in a statement.

Tan said however that other proposals which were not included the package and did not require expenditure could be considered by the government.

This, he said, included allowing visa-free entry to tourists from India and granting companies double tax deductions for holding their conferences, meetings, company events and trips in Malaysia.

“These will help spur the economy.”

Malaysian Budget Hotel Association president Emmy Suraya said she was happy that hotels would enjoy a 15% discount on their electricity bills, and with the other exemptions.

“Though not all our requests were included, the main ones were approved. It would be better if employers’ contribution to the Employees Provident Fund could be lowered,” she told FMT.

Yesterday, Mahathir announced a RM20 billion economic stimulus package to cushion the impact of Covid-19 which will be implemented for six months from March.

Among the incentives are a 15% discount on the electricity bills for hotels, airlines, and shopping malls. Taxes on hotels will be reduced and levies imposed for training will also be temporarily removed.

The employees’ contribution to the EPF will be reduced from 11% to 7%, allowing employees to have more money in hand.