Tuesday, November 24

Hoteliers fear snags

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SIBU: The Sarawak Central Region Hotel Association anticipates there will be a lot of problems associated with the implementation of the Tourism Tax come Sept 1, particularly with the collection mechanism.

Its chairman Johnny Wong Sie Lee said he was swarmed by queries from members as far as Kapit on how to pay the tax after collecting it from their guests.

“At this moment, my members are very confused on what to do as they have not been briefed on the matter. So to me, I anticipate there will be problems with the implementation later on,” he told reporters after the association’s annual dinner here on Saturday.

Wong said he was told there will be a briefing in Kuching on Aug 24, and that he will be sending his members to get more information on the implementation of the tax.

Nevertheless, he lamented: “I think this is not well planned. I could be wrong but our feeling is that it (implementation of tourism tax) should be properly studied beforehand.

“The way they (government) implement now is not suitable. Hopefully, our (state) minister will do something about this.”

Wong also opined that the new tax would have a bigger adverse effect on budget hotels as opposed to four- or five-star establishments.

“For a RM30 to RM40 room (per night), a guest would need to pay extra RM10 (per night), which is a lot for those operating on a tight budget.

Asked if the association has plans to bring members’ plight to Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Wong said they had not decided on anything yet.

“Hopefully our minister will seriously look into the matter because Sarawak and the peninsula are totally different. They have so many tourists there whereas in Sarawak – like Kuching – (there are) not so many tourists now.

“So our members are going to be affected. I tell you honestly, most of the members feel that it is going to be very difficult for them. Some of them even said that if they cannot (sustain their business), they are going to change into ‘bilik sewa’.”

The Tourism Tax will see foreign tourists charged a flat rate of RM10 per room per night for all types of accommodation rooms.  Malaysian citizens and permanent residents are exempted from paying the tax.  The tax will not apply to registered homestays and ‘kampung stays’, premises for training, welfare or non-commercial use as well as premises with fewer than four rooms.