26th October, 2015
KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) welcomes the government’s decision to implement the e-Visa by mid-2016 to facilitate tourist arrivals into the country.
“The e-Visa system is certainly a preparation for 2020, in line with the objective of achieving developed-nation status to meet future demand and tourists expectations. It will encourage visa applications and reduce administrative burden while maintaining strict and effective immigration controls,” said Datuk Tan Kok Liang, Vice President Inbound of MATTA.
E-Visa application will begin with China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the United States and Canada.
“For the time being, perhaps the e-Visa proposal is the best compromise. The earlier proposal of ‘Visa-Free’ status for Chinese tourists has been hotly debated over the last 12 months without clear resolution – such deadlock has resulted in our nation losing out to neighbouring countries which offer more relaxed entry policies” explained Tan.
Tan commented that the Immigration Director-General Datuk Mustafa had overridden a decision by the Cabinet twice to observe implementing visa-free entry for Chinese tourists to the disappointment of the industry.
Tan hopes the e-Visa implementation process will be expedited to boost tourist arrivals, thus allowing the entire tourism industry to recover.
In his 2016 Budget speech, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the tourism sector had the “highest potential” to generate economic activity in the current economic climate.
The government is targeting 30.5 million tourists for 2016 which is expected to generate RM103 billion for the national economy.
Tan also applauded the announcement that economy class passengers on Rural Air Services routes in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan will be exempted from GST.
“For Sabah and Sarawak, flights are essential services. We are glad the government has lessened the people’s burden especially since air transportation is so crucial in East Malaysia. However, we hope that Sandakan and Tawau will also be included under this category of rural air service routes and enjoy GST exempt status” said Tan.
“Moving forward we hope the government will eventually zero-rate all domestic air travel, in particular between West Malaysia and East Malaysia to re-invigorate domestic tourism.”
Tan also lauded the budget allocation of RM523 million to enhance security in Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) which he described as timely and much appreciated.
“Safety and security have always been the main considerations for tourists who visit Sabah. Thus, fast implementation of security measures will auger well for tourism and allow other related economic activities in the East coast of Sabah to rebound. With the government’s full focus in this matter, we hope that confidence will be restored and negative travel advisories be lifted,” added Tan.
“The extension of income tax exemption from year of assessment 2016 to 2018 on statutory income for tour operators handling 750 foreign tourist or 1500 domestic tourists will further encourage tour operators to reinvest tax savings into marketing and promotions activities, rebranding exercise and product development,” he said.
“It is indeed a recognition from the government on the efforts made by the travel industry to lure more tourists to the country but we hope that there will be no threshold on the number of tourists in order to benefit small and medium size tour operators,” said Tan.
“With a bigger allocation of RM1.2 billion, the travel industry hopes more aggressive and high impact promotional and marketing activities will be carried out by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture to lure foreign tourists and enhance our country’s competitiveness against regional destinations. Increase subsidies for charter flights and incentives to travel agents would be good for the industry,” he said.