Stimulus package must be activated fast

THE government must immediately activate the stimulus package that was earlier proposed to assist sectors affected by the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

Malaysia Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang (picture) said the move is crucial, particularly for the retail and tourism sectors, which are currently experiencing a huge drop in sales and revenue as a result of the outbreak.

He said cancellation of more than 95,000 bookings for hotel rooms worth RM40 million has been reported so far at various tourism spots all over the country.

Tan, who attended a meeting with Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng yesterday, said the ministry is still studying the initiative, which is expected to be finalised and announced latest by next month.

“We can see that the number of visitors has been dropping tremendously at tourist spots and shopping malls. So, do not take too long to review (the proposal).

“The government needs to decide immediately, so we can focus on promoting Malaysia,” he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Tan said among the cities which have seen a drastic drop in footfall are Penang, Johor Baru, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

He added that the government should consider a higher quantum this time, compared to the 2003 SARS outbreak, which saw RM8.1 billion rolled out to mitigate the impact of the disease.

Tan said the inflation rate, which has increased over the years, has to be included in the equation, while consumers’ behaviour should also be taken into account.

The Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign is envisioned to achieve RM30 billion in receipts this year, with 100 million tourists expected to arrive in the country, higher than the RM92.2 billion receipts and 28.1 million visitors recorded in 2019.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had shared his concerns over the dwindling tourist footfall due to the impact from the Chinese market which has been affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

To cushion the coronavirus impact on the industry, Tan said the government should also consider tax deduction for companies that support human resource activities held at MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibition) events.

Tan said the government could also consider personal tax relief of up to RM2,000 for domestic tour packages.

“These packages must be purchased from companies licensed by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, which covers residents tax payer, spouse and children for a specific time period.

Tan said the proposals are expected to be submitted to the Finance Ministry soon.

Domestic tourism expenditure has increased by 11.4% to over RM92 billion in 2018. Out of 221 million domestic visitors, 74 million were tourists staying overnight away from home, while the rest were day-trippers.

Tan said MATTA is expected to initiate a special exhibition to promote domestic tourism this April, namely Matta Fair “CutiCuti Malaysia”, as part of its effort to mitigate the situation.

He said the exhibition, while not expected to offset losses from the Chinese market significantly, would at least contribute to the recovery of the industry as a whole.

The two-day exhibition, to be held from April 4 to April 5, is projected to generate between RM20 million and RM30 million of sales transactions.

Tan said the event, which will be held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, is expected to house 200 booths.

He said MATTA is also offering a 40% discount to exhibitors that are taking part in the programme, including hoteliers, airline companies and travel agencies. Any shortfall in inbound tourist arrivals could be compensated by domestic tourism.

He also added that MATTA is expected to collaborate with its counterparts from Asean countries, as 69% of the total tourists are from South-East Asia.

MATTA Fair “Cuti-Cuti Malaysia” will be jointly supported by Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines Bhd.

Meanwhile, the MATTA Fair, which was normally held in March, has been deferred to May 1 to 3, 2020.