MATTA lauds RM100m matching grant on tourism promotions

Kuala Lumpur: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) applauds the Finance Ministry for the matching grant of RM100 million to private companies for international tourism promotions and marketing to boost the industry, as announced in the 2019 Budget.
Its President, Datuk Tan Kok Liang said this was the first time that such an allocation would be given to the tourism industry, and Matta was looking forward to its mechanism and conditions.

"The matching grant allocation will be beneficial for local tour agencies, especially those which are constantly active with overseas promotions with Matta through sales missions to China, India, Asean countries and Europe," he said in a statement Monday.

Tan said it was certainly a right move too, to set the requirement for foreign online booking engines to register with the Royal Malaysian Customs Department and charge service tax on imported online services.

He added that imposing service tax on foreign online booking engines and withholding tax on commissions paid to them will level the tourism industry playing ground.

Tan noted that the RM500 million allocation through SME Bank would boost rural tourism development such as upgrading the ecosystem for homestays, encourage more rural people to be involved in community-based tourism, offer better facilities at recreational and tourism centres such as public toilets, and commercialising eco-tourism products ranging from local wildlife to native culture, arts and handicrafts.

On another note, he said Matta had envisioned Penang becoming a 'home port' which would be a boon for Penang's cruise tourism and generate other economic multipliers, and glad that the government planned to provide duty-free shops at Penang Swettenham Pier.

On tourism tax, Tan hoped that there would be no overlapping of duties to ensure maximise returns.

"Usage of the funds should be directed and driven by the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry to ensure that the national tourism objectives are met, while the state is to focus on tourism products and attractions to make these unique and spectacular," he said.

As the target of 30 million tourist arrivals for Visit Malaysia Year 2020 is crucial and in need of urgent attention, Tan said international promotion campaigns must be executed in a concerted manner.
However, he noted that Budget 2019 had left out incentives for local travel agencies amid the digital economy.

"MATTA had proposed for incentives that do not incur any incremental cost to the government, such as Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA) for tourism website development/upgrades and Information Communications Technology (ICT) or automation tools.

"Nonetheless, we are grateful to the government for granting the major items in Matta's wish list," he said. – Bernama