MOTAC’s efforts to assist tourism affected by Covid-19 feedback on Matfa’s proposal to government

MOTAC’s efforts to assist tourism affected by Covid-19 feedback on Matfa’s proposal to government

KUALA LUMPUR — The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia (MOTAC) has reviewed and welcomes the proposal from Malaysian Association of Theme Park & Family Attractions (MATFA) appealing for the government to recalibrate the National Recovery Plan (NRP) and offer a lifeline to the country’s tourism industry.

According to NST online yesterday, MATFA president Tan Sri Richard CK Koh said, the industry’s core businesses, such as theme parks, attractions, playlands, wellness spas, cinemas and family entertainment centres, should be allowed to operate together with shopping malls, resorts and hotels during Phase Two of the NRP.

The association, he said, submitted a comprehensive Position Paper, outlining eight clear thrusts and 13 specific initiatives, to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) last month.

Yesterday (July 20), MATFA had also presented a letter to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and advised on several key measures.

He also suggested that the need to shift away from a pandemic approach to an endemic approach by outlining a radical departure from the ‘Zero-Covid’ model.

In responding to the MAFTA’s proposal, MOTAC today in a statement highlighted the government’s
commitment in ensuring the tourism industry stays afloat with well prepared plans and programs.

Tourism is vital for the success of many economies around the world. There are several benefits of tourism for host destinations. Tourism boosts the revenue of the economy, creates jobs, develops the infrastructure of a country, and facilitates a sense of cultural exchange between foreigners and citizens.

The severe outbreak of the pandemic has demanded the country to implement the Movement Control Order or MCO in an effort to stem the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia. However, the restricted movement and closed borders have negatively impacted the country’s tourism industry.

As a people-oriented industry, tourism is one of the hardest-hit economic sectors. Thus, an effective tourism recovery plan is essential to balance between the economy and livelihood.

To save the country’s tourism industry, the Ministry in close consultation with industry associations has formulated and implemented the Tourism Recovery Plan (TRP) under the National Tourism Policy 2020 – 2030 with focus on the following strategies:

I.revitalizing domestic tourism by offering more creative and attractive travel packages through digital platforms, offer incentives and promotions in the form of rebate vouchers, e-vouchers, cashback through e-wallets and discounts, at the same time promoting the uniqueness of rural tourist destinations or hidden gems as tourists now prefer safer destinations, fewer people and fresh air;

Ii. restoring public confidence to travel again by adapting to the new normal such as emphasizing on hygiene, cleanliness and health safety and compliance to standard operating procedures or SOPs;

iii. embracing the technology of secure, seamless and contactless travel, such as cashless payment, online booking, contactless transaction, and contactless check-in;

iv. reskilling and upskilling to improve the capacity and credibility of the profession by adapting to the new normal especially digital literacy training;

v. easing regulations to ensure the survivability of the industry for example simplifying regulations, waiving of license fees for TOBTAB and TG;

vi. promoting sustainable tourism development by re-strategizing efforts to conserve and preserve the environment such as considering carrying capacity on islands or fragile destinations;

vii. strengthening public-private partnerships, especially in re-creating tourism, arts and culture products to be more appealing and innovative as well as in keeping the number of COVID-19 infections low by complying to the SOPs; and

viii. kick-starting international travel by developing segmented and sustainable products focused on nature, rural areas and culture such as eco-tourism, small group or individual sports, history, bird-watching tourism, and traditional routes. For a start, the focus will be on vaccinated travelers, personalized and small group tours and packages.

Thus, the Ministry is in discussion at the NSC level which involves the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several other ministries, and agencies to explore opportunities to create a creative travel bubble with SOPs that consider aspects of health, immigration, data tracking, and continuous monitoring by relevant agencies.

Framework to revive tourism in line with NRP

Furthermore, MOTAC has also prepared a framework in reviving tourism in line with the National Recovery Plan where it outlined 3 phases to help the government speed up the vaccination program nationwide and subsequently make the COVID-19 Free Destination Program a success. For the first phase, Langkawi and Kuching has been selected as pilot travel destinations for the program.

For the second phase, MOTAC will expand the program to other popular resort islands such as Redang Island, Perhentian Island, Pangkor Island, and Tioman Island as well as other main attractions in various states such as Johor, Melaka, Pulau Pinang and Sabah.

The third phase involves other main destinations. Hence, the program includes efforts to increase the capacity in vaccinating the local population. Currently, MOTAC is working closely with the COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) to utilise the existing PPV centres to accelerate the vaccination program for the tourism frontliners.

Besides that, MOTAC is also in the midst of proposing to NSC to reactivate tourism activities by phases, as follows:

I Tier 1: allow intra-district travel and tourism activities within the district
ii. Tier 2: allow inter-district travel and tourism
iii.Tier 3: allow inter-state travel and tourism
iv. Tier 4: allow international travel/ inbound tourists (opening up of borders)

To ensure that the industry remains competitive, MOTAC has implemented several initiatives to help ease the burden of the tourism industry, among others are:

I.relaxation of compound matters under Act 482 such as compound payment discount of 40% to all

II.tour operators and licensed tour guides compounded by MOTAC before 30 December 2021;

ii. license fee exemption for tour operators and tourist guides licensed under Act 482; and

iii. relaxation of license requirements for tour operators such as rental of business premises by co-share office space until 31 December 2021, application for renewal of license without audited financial report from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021, permission to carry on other business in the premises of the tour operator company from 18 March 2020 to 31 December 2021, and issuance of tour operator company license without inspection of premises during the period of 18 March 2020 to 31 December 2021.

With the aim to revive the economy and to ensure the continuity of businesses while retaining the employment of thousands of workers, especially Malaysians, the Government has unveiled several economic stimulus packages such as PEMULIH, PEMERKASA Plus and PEMERKASA.

Among the initiatives included:

i. extension of 10% electricity bill discount from October to December 2021 to hotel operators, theme park operators, convention centers, shopping malls and tour operators;

ii. one-off special assistance of RM3,000 under PEMERKASA for 5,335 tour agencies registered under MOTAC.

As of July 2021, a total of 2,899 tour agencies have received the assistance with a total payment of RM8,697,000;

iii. as of July 2021, under PERMAI, the one-off financial assistance of RM500 has been given to 5,877 tour guides (Peninsular Malaysia & Sarawak) amounting to RM2,938,500, whereas under the Budget Package 2021, one-off financial assistance of RM1,000 has been given to 1,063 tour guides (Sabah) amounting to RM1,063,000;

iv. one-off special assistance of RM600 under PEMERKASA for homestay operators under the Malaysian Homestay Experience Program (MOTAC). As of July 2021, a total of 2,861 operators have received assistance involving a total payment allocation of RM1,716,600.00.

v. deferment of monthly income tax instalments payment for companies; vi. tourism tax and service tax exemption for hotel operators until 31 December 2021;

vii. Wage Subsidy Scheme where government will support up to 500 workers per employer with assistance of RM600 per worker for 4 months; and As of June 2021, 327 applications under PENJANA Tourism Financing (PTF) have been approved with a total funding of RM65.1 million.

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