Lost thrill: nation’s amusement parks crave greater financial backing, govt help
Abolish archaic entertainment tax, import levy on facilities, association urges authorities
GEORGE TOWN – As amusement and theme park facilities continue to suffer from sluggish growth despite the general rebound in tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic, the main body representing the players has called for more effective financial packaging and government help.
According to the Malaysian Association of Theme Parks and Family Attractions (Matfa), amusement parks are in need of upgrades and introductIon of new attractions and rides to woo visitors.
To achieve this, the operators need financial underwriting, which is now not forthcoming from the financiers due to the tight credit control policies, said its president Tan Sri Richard Koh.
He urged financiers to consider new repayment schemes and commit to jointly invest in tourism ventures to stimulate growth, particularly in the amusement segment. He also wants both the federal and state governments to revamp entertainment taxes as such a move can attract more investments into the Malaysian theme parks’ industry.
According to the association, the entertainment tax is outdated and is an impediment to promoting the healthy form of family tourism. Stressing that Matfa advocates a forward-thinking approach, Koh highlighted the urgent necessity to abolish the archaic Entertainment Tax Act 1953.
The current tax policy imposes an unjust 25% levy on family-oriented recreational activities in spots such as theme parks and attractions, he said. “This counter-productive taxation stifles family bonding and recreation, thereby hindering the industry’s growth,” he added.
Ease taxes on recreational complexes
In a resounding call to revitalise tourism on a greater level, Koh also urged the authorities to collaborate to devise a comprehensive strategy to boost the industry, both for local and foreign tourists, and to convince lenders to offer innovative financial packaging.
“Matfa recognises that tourism constitutes one of the nation’s primary revenue streams and asserts the need for an immediate action to stimulate this vital segment of tourism,” he said in a statement.
Acknowledging the private sector’s commendable initiatives in developing recreational sport complexes, Matfa underscored the importance of incentivising these endeavours by waiving taxes.
These private initiatives do not only save government resources but also fulfils the government’s duty to provide leisure opportunities for the people. “With many council-owned recreation complexes poorly managed and maintained, private sector investments should be encouraged, as they offer high-quality alternatives.”
‘Orlando of the East’
Another crucial step towards strengthening Malaysia’s tourism industry is the elimination of the high 30% import tax on theme park equipment and rides, he stressed.
“By facilitating the importation of cutting-edge technology rides, Malaysia can establish itself as the ‘Orlando of the East’,” he said, referring to the famous entertainment district in Florida, USA.
Such a move would prevent the country from losing its competitive edge to neighbouring nations.
Koh highlighted that several countries, including Singapore and Hong Kong, have already abolished entertainment tax for amusements to attract international standards theme park investments. Malaysia, with its head start, must seize this opportunity by offering enticing incentives to attract investments and position itself as a regional leader in the industry.
To facilitate investments and foster economic recovery in a sector disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Matfa calls upon banks to provide swift and viable funding facilities. Matfa also urged banks to wholeheartedly support this scheme by expediting funding approvals and not reject applications solely due to the industry’s pandemic-induced challenges.
“Matfa remains dedicated to championing Malaysia’s tourism industry and believes that the proposed changes will create a vibrant and competitive landscape, ensuring a brighter future for the nation’s tourism,” said Koh.
– The Vibes, September 12, 2023