Trip cancellations show wrong time to enforce tourism tax


John Teo

MIRI: Recent news reports of Chinese tourists cancelling trips to the country shows that it is clearly not the right time for Malaysia to implement the tourism tax.

When contacted by The Borneo Post, Meritz Hotel and Bintang Megamall general manager John Teo said that the tourism industry in Malaysia is not ready for the tourism tax.

“Currently, the whole world is facing an economic crisis. Inflation is one of the main factors that cause many to refrain from spending more. If tourists are willing to part with their money by coming here to visit the country, it should be viewed as an opportunity for the tourism industry.

“Instead, the implementation of the tourism tax clearly scared them off and cancelling their tour means the expenses are too much for them to bear,” Teo said.

He noted that many tours are usually booked and paid for months prior, which means that these prices are not inclusive of tourism tax.

“It should be waived due to the timeline and I strongly believe that it would do good to the country,” he said.

In Sarawak, he revealed, the occupancy rate of four-star and five-star hotels is actually less than 50 per cent.

“Local travellers and foreign backpackers opt for cheaper options. The tourism tax is taxing on four and five-star hotels. This directly impacts on the business of these premises.”

Thailand and Bali, Indonesia are among the many destinations that offer accommodation at lower prices without any additional charges.

“They are already great competitors to our country. With the tourism tax, it is almost impossible for us to rival them. Instead, the new tax is going to pull down the businesses (here) altogether; many established brands would face a huge impact from this,” he opined.

Teo who is also the honorary secretary-general of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (Sarawak Chapter) opined that Sarawak should improve tourism facilities before implementing the new tax, to give the impression to tourists that the tax is worth their money.

“It is imperative to make sure that Sarawak is able to compete, with all the facilities deemed suitable for tourists to come to visit the state first, before thinking of trying to tax its own people and tourists further through the new tax,” Teo said.