Tourism industry on brink of collapse, Matta says in seeking financial support

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) has urged Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz to elaborate on his efforts to help tourism businesses which are currently in extreme financial distress.

“The Malaysian tourism industry is on the brink of total collapse and the Ministry of Finance needs to be specific in its allocation to not only preserve tourism business and workers but to prepare and empower the industry for a major comeback,“ Matta President Datuk Tan Kok Liang(pix) said in a statement today.

In 2019, Malaysia received 26 million foreign tourists with a revenue of RM 89.1 billion, exceeding the exports of palm oil at RM 70 billion and rubber gloves at RM 22 billion.

“Don’t ignore the industry now just because borders remain closed and because there is not much tourism activity,” Tan said. “Our companies are in bad shape due to regulatory constraints imposed by the government while other countries are recovering at a faster rate in their battle against Covid-19.

“As borders have remained closed for the last 18 months and with just a small travel bubble for Langkawi, we plead with the Minister of Finance Tengku Zafrul to provide targeted assistance for tourism businesses and workers directly affected. This includes providing an extension of the wage subsidy and automatic bank loan moratorium and waiver of interest at least until the end of this year for borrowers directly impacted by the pandemic.”

Tan said tourism industry players have taken business loans in 2020 in anticipation that the government will overcome the pandemic but today, tourism activities remain restricted and they are made to pay the bank instalments and interest with no revenue.

“How are we to sustain? The irony is that while the greater economy suffers, financial institutions are recording billions in profits during the pandemic,“ he said.

“The Ministry of Finance needs to provide practical financial assistance beyond tax incentives or tax rebates or deferment of tax instalments which we are unable to benefit from because tourism companies have already accumulated tax losses in 2020 and 2021. By now, we have more than enough tax losses to ofset any ‘so called forecasted profits’.”

Tan said Matta welcomed the recent statement by the former Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng reminding the government not to set the tourism industry aside.

Lim had urged the government to provide further subsidies to workers in the tourism industry, waive the interest for bank loans during the moratorium, provide grants, and subsidies on rentals and utilities to businesses that had survived last year’s RM 100 billion in losses.

“We have the potential to recover swiftly to bolster the national economy but does the Finance Minister have the same confidence? We urge the Minister of Finance to announce direct and accessible financial support in the National Budget 2022 next month,“ Tan added.

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