Friday, August 19

Minimal impact on tourist arrivals, Abdul Karim says of tourism tax


Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

SIBU: The implementation of tourism tax will have minimal impact on the number of tourists coming to Sarawak, says Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

He was asked if the state would still be able to achieve the target of receiving five million tourists this year with the implementation of the new tax.

“Most of the tourists are domestic tourists as well as tourists from the neighbouring countries and majority of them do not stay in four or five star hotels. Though it does affect their budget slightly, I believe it will not deter them from coming,” Abdul Karim told The Borneo Post yesterday.

The Asajaya assemblyman said what Sarawak needs to do is to upgrade and introduce more tourism packages and places of interest as well as more promotions.

Adding on, he said: “The tourism tax, however, does have a big impact on hotels and those that have made pre-booking from early this year till end of this year. The packages would not have incorporated the ‘extras’ and when being informed of the extras would definitely have offended them.

“New packages for next year would have incorporated the new tax. That is the reason why we do not want the tax to be ‘bulldozed’ through without consultation and discussion on the finer points.”

Abdul Karim asserted that voices of industry players as well as Sabah and Sarawak state governments on collection and disbursement of the tax needed to be heard and considered and not just the “voice of one smart veteran minister”.

“God willing, we will be able to achieve the five million tourist target if Tourism Malaysia as well as Sarawak Tourism Board do their promotion diligently and positively,” he remarked.

The tourism tax will come into effect on July 1 as announced by federal Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

Asked if he foresees more foreign tourists would follow the footsteps of the 3,000 Chinese tourists to shy away from Malaysia because of the tourism as reported by a newspaper quoting Malaysian Association of Convention and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (Maceos) vice president for conventions and PCM (professional conference management) trainer Gracie Geikie, Abdul Karim said to express his concern over the news.

“I am concerned about the news of so-called 3,000 Chinese tourists shying away from Malaysia and opting to go to a neighbouring country is true or not. If it is true, this is sad news and I believe this is due to abrupt imposition of the tax without consultation and getting feedback from industry players on what are the immediate possible effects of the tax and what steps to be taken to cushion it.

“If the smart veteran minister had chosen to listen to the industry players, I am sure he would be able to come up with a good solution for the hoteliers so as to minimise the losses and prevent pre-booked tourists from cancelling their bookings,” he pointed out.

Sarawak Central Region Hotel Association chairman Johnny Wong Sie Lee recently argued that the tourism tax should not be implemented so soon because this was a period of recession.

Wong lamented that hoteliers were not given sufficient time to learn about the latest requirement.