Saturday, June 19

PEMERKASA offers tourism relief during hard times


KUCHING: The aid for tourism under the PEMERKASA stimulus package could not have come at a better time for homestay operator, Elisa Azura Ali, who has not had a single guest since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Sarawak.

She has been operating the homestay, Muhammad Guestshouse, here for seven years and she continues to maintain the property although she has had no income from it.

“We opened as usual but did not get any customers. We had two part-time cleaners whom we hire once in a while to keep the homestay clean,” she said when contacted.

With the government aid under the PEMERKASA stimulus package, Elisa can heave a sigh of relief.

She is eligible for the one-off cash assistance of RM600 and the Special Aid Grant which is between RM3,000 and RM5,000 given to 4,000 homestay operators registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC).

Unfortunately, as she did not get any business, the tourism tax and services tax for hotel accommodation and postponement in income tax submission, which are also offered by PEMERKASA, did not apply to her.

Elisa Azura Ali

“The PEMERKASA stimulus package is good enough. What needs to be done later when the pandemic is over is to promote local tourism. This also helps entrepreneurs in the homestay businesses after a long period of staying idle,” said Elisa.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Hotels Sarawak Chapter Chairman John Teo said the pandemic had caused some smaller companies to cease operation as there were no foreign tourists entering Sarawak.

Three to six months after the MCO was implemented, he said most three to five stars hotels had already laid off at least 30 to 50 per cent of their food and beverage staff as restaurants and bars were not permitted to open.

In April 2020, the bigger star-rated hotels were used as quarantine centres for people arriving in the state by air at a fixed rate of RM150 per person or per room.

John Teo

Teo said hoteliers here hoped that the pandemic would end soon so that they could go back to doing business. While he welcomed the government’s aid for the industry under PEMERKASA, Teo felt more could still be done as they could not enjoy assistance like the tourism tax exemption due to restrictions on international travel.

He hoped Sarawak would become a Covid-19 ‘green zone’ soon so that the state could be part of a domestic travel bubble and eventually start receiving foreign tourists from ‘green zone’ countries.

“Regardless of the amount announced by the government, it does offer some sort of assistance to all tourism Industry players.”


Satta: Measures to help domestic tourism stay afloat

KOTA KINABALU: The initiatives introduced by the Perikatan Nasional-led government under the People and Economic Empowerment Strategic Program (Pemerkasa) will stimulate domestic tourism and benefit industry players struggling to stay afloat amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

Datuk Seri Winston Liaw

Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Satta) president Datuk Seri Winston Liaw said the exemption for tourism tax and services tax for hotel accommodation until December 31 this year would encourage consumers to make bookings because hoteliers would offer cheaper room rates.

He said locals would also enjoy tax relief up to RM1,000 when they purchase tourism packages from tour agents registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac), which in turn, translated to discounted tour price. He also lauded the one-off special assistance grant of RM3,000 to 5,000 travel agents registered with Motac as the aid could ease the financial pressure faced by tour operators. He further said the government’s wage subsidy was crucial for the survival of the tourism industry and prevented them from closure.

Liaw also commended the extension of electricity bill discount of 10 per cent for hoteliers, theme parks, convention centres, shopping malls, local airline offices and tour and travel agencies and hoped that the government could consider increasing the discount to 30 per cent.

Cash assistance a warm welcome for homestay operators

KOTA KINABALU: The one-off cash assistance of RM600 for homestay operators registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) has been well-received by homestay operators such as Mesilou Atamis Homestay in Kundasang.

Its coordinator Amrin Gupili, who operates Onis Homestay, said the financial aid would help cover utility bills for homestay operators.

“We are thankful for the cash assistance as it allows us to pay our utility bills,” he told The Borneo Post in an interview.

Mesilou Atamis Homestay has 45 members, 80 percent of whom have reopened their homestay business.

“We were lucky that the (Sabah) state government has allowed cross-district travel in the state based on zoning. So far, 80 per cent of our homestay operators have reopened while 20 per cent remain closed due to Covid-19 concerns.”

The Sabah government has allowed cross-district travel in the state on March 3 based on the six zones stipulated during the implementation of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCI).

Kundasang town in Ranau district is under Zone 1, which includes Kota Kinabalu, Kota Belud, Tuaran, Penampang, Putatan and Papar.

Amrin operates Onis Homestay in Mesilou.