KUCHING: Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah described the cancellation of trips by 3,000 Chinese tourists to Malaysia and choosing Thailand as their preferred destination as alarming.
“This is what Malaysian Association of Hotels has informed me too and the reason why I wanted to have the enforcement date deferred and not to rush through the tourism tax.
I will hold on temporarily,” he said when reacting to a front page article quoting Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (Maceos) acting vice-president Gracie Geikie as saying that these tourists had cancelled their plans because they had to pay tourism tax of about RM100,000.
Abdul Karim said next week he would be going to Sabah for finer deliberation on a joint approach with the state on the controversial tax.
“I fully agree with what the Chief Minister (Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg) has said yesterday (June 25).
“It is not to oppose the tax in toto but we want consultation as it affects the state as well as tourism players in the state.
"We know for sure that the tourism tax is being imposed in many countries in the world but rushing through the tax implementation can have some adverse effects,” Abdul Karim, who was on holiday in Peninsular Malaysia, said when contacted yesterday.
“Many packages were arranged during Matta Fair in February and March 2017 which are still valid until Dec 31, 2017 but then who is going to bear the ‘extras’ in tourism tax?
"Apart from that, the methodology of how the tax is collected and disbursed has also not been finalised.
“I do agree that Sabah and Sarawak will probably have a common stand on this matter.
"We are in discussion and it will be finalised, God willing, after Raya.
"On the implementation of the tax on July 1, 2017 as mentioned by federal Minister for Tourism and Culture Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz – it is only five days away.
"The industry players and hotels have not been informed of the mechanism on how the tax is implemented, among other things.
"Maybe the federal minister (Nazri) being the veteran minister could enlighten us on this,” added Abdul Karim.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) acting CEO Mary Wan said STB agreed with Abang Johari when asking for deferment of the tourism tax.
“As mentioned by YAB CM we are asking for deferment because Sarawak realised and was concerned about all industry issues.
"Once all are settled especially the mechanism, terms and condition, we will send advice to all our partners, tour operators, wholesalers and online booking portals overseas where all our markets are.
"I think YAB CM understood all these issues,” said Mary.
Other Sarawak tourism industry partners like Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Sarawak and Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) were also not pleased with the rushed implementation of the Tourism Tax.
Inbound tour operators are said to be left in limbo with no immediate instructions and information on the mechanism of the tax collection.
The Malaysian Association of Hotels Sarawak has yet to issue a directive on this measure.
Matta Sarawak chairman Chris Kon said: “This implementation does not give tour operators enough time to inform our overseas counterparts and to receive feedback from them to accept all the bookings made or to cancel.”
“We need to rework all our tour packages in view of this. Most of our packages using four and five star hotels launched and promoted at our recent Matta Travel Fairs are valid till end of the year.
"With the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holidays ending this month end and with several bookings extending into July, we will be caught now with complications.
"This is especially so when our domestic packages with family travel bookings of three to four rooms staying three nights are affected badly.
"Imagine the additional (sum) they have to top up,” added Kon.
Mita Sarawak also said through a press statement that the best way forward is to defer the tourism tax collection to a reasonable time frame to allow all parties (hoteliers and tour operators) to put their mechanisms in place to allow them to disseminate the information appropriately to their clients.
“Even though this was proposed late last year and passed in Parliament this year, the government must understand the impact it has made on the tourism and hospitality business community by not engaging with the very businesses who would be affected.
"There are contractual agreements, forward bookings of conferences, groups and leisure travel,” the statement said.
Both associations sought urgent attention for the matter.
Gracie in yesterday’s See Hua Daily News raised concerns over tour packages and hotel rooms sold during Matta in February and March, which are valid until Dec 31, 2017 and on who will bear the tourism tax.
Malaysians choosing to stay in any three-star hotels and hotels of lower rating are not subjected to the tax, but those who choose to stay in four to five-star hotels need to pay the tax.
She said when the travel service agents sell their packages, they can’t insist that locals should stay in three-star hotels and below as this will cause some complications and difficulties. -TheBorneoPost