KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Association of Tour and Travel Agents (SATTA) was bewildered that the federal Budget 2021 tabled in Dewan Rakyat Friday by Finance Minister, Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz has left out the tourism industry.

Its chairman, Dato’ Seri Winston Liaw (pix) reacted today that: “We are the most suffered and most impacted industry with zero income for 11 months so far.

“Thousands of travel agents and tourists resorts and hotels as well as restaurants will close shop soon, hence more than 10,000 employees will be retrenched and will lead to social destabilization.”

For the preparation to boost the 2021 tourism industry, SATTA suggested the international borders continues to be closed for the time being to focus on domestic tourism with at least 50 per cent government subsidy for tour packages less than RM1,000.

And another 50 per cent government subsidy for the offices of travel agent and tour operator’s water and electricity bills, office rental or bank loans repayment for owners self-occupied, he added.

He also suggested that Sabah should be allocated at least RM50 million for overseas promotion purposes targeting China and South Korea markets as both countries contributed the biggest arrivals to Sabah for the last 10 years.

“The allocation should also include organising promotion tour together with the private sectors to meet foreign operators for a B2B session where Sabah-based hotels, restaurants and transportation services should give special deals to attract visitors and remain competition in order for them to put Sabah as their first choice.

“The promotion period should last towards December 2021,” Liew suggested.

Also, all expenses during the promotion tours to foreign countries to be borne by the government, he added.

Liaw also suggested that the tourism tax should be exempted for the whole 2021, whereby company income tax to be exempted, include year 2019 till 2022.

The Budget 2021 highlighted RM50 million will be allocated for maintaining and upgrading tourism facilities nationwide and a special grant of RM1,000 would be given to tourist guides in Sabah.-HS

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