Focus View
Timing of tourism tax is wrong, Mr Minister
FocusM team | 16 Jun 2017 00:30
We sometimes wonder if federal ministers bother to listen to opinions on the ground before making important decisions.  

The latest controversy over the tourism tax on hotels is an example. Not only was it pushed down the throats of hotel operators, the implementation date was also brought forward from Aug 1 to July 1. 

The tax comes despite Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board director-general Datuk Seri Mirza Mohd Taiyab lamenting recently that the local tourism market had been soft in the first five months of this year. 

The tourism tax will cost hoteliers RM650 mil. If they pass the cost to the customers, the tourism market might be dampened even more.  

We wonder how much engagement there had been with stakeholders before the tourism tax was implemented. More importantly, were their views even considered?

The government probably feels hotel room rates in Malaysia are among the cheapest in the region so there is room to impose a tax. But why would we want to “kill” the hotel industry? 

Aren’t our low rates one of the main reasons tourists come? Aren’t hotels already charging GST and service tax? 

The weak ringgit is seen as one reason that makes Malaysia attractive to tourists. What happens when the ringgit strengthens? Will the tourism tax be abolished?

Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz must also not be confrontational when some states express reservation about the tax. As an elected representative, his job is to listen to views on the ground.
 
His ministry must find innovative ways of promoting the country if it  lacks the funds. It should also prudently use the RM400 mil allocated to it in Budget 2017 to promote tourism. His ministry must disclose how the money is spent.   

Early this year, Nazri made the right move by closing his ministry’s offices in the states. “We don’t want the functions of our offices and that of state tourism units to overlap.

Each state also has state executive councillors in charge of tourism and we need to give them more muscle,” he was quoted as saying. 

So it seemed strange when Nazri blasted Sarawak Minister for Tourism Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah for opposing the tourism tax. So much for giving Abdul Karim “muscle” to decide what is good for his state. 

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