Driving Malaysia's tourism industry

Driving Malaysia's tourism industry

Outdated laws and guidelines, high import duties on cars and high operational costs are stifling the local tour and travel agencies, according to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta).

With just three weeks to go before Visit Malaysia Year 2014, travel operators claim they have not been given any incentives or funding to help them prepare for the programme.

"The Government says it wants to target high-yield tourists, but these tourists also expect high-end services," Matta president Hamzah Rahmat says.

"How are tour agencies to afford the luxury vehicles that the tourists want to travel in? We are not even given any reduction on import duties or taxes to purchase such cars."

The luxury cars they now own, he adds, are also bound by rigid permit regulations. These vehicles with limousine licence can only be parked at specified hotels, which are called the "base". And to park at the base, the tour agent has to pay rent to the hotels.

"The vehicle is also only allowed to ply between the airport and the hotel. If the tourist chooses to stay at a different hotel, we cannot use that vehicle to ferry the tourists.

"For example, my permit says I can only move between Parkroyal Hotel and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. But my guests are going to Hilton Hotel. According to my permit, I cannot provide the transfer, but we have to provide this customer service to our guests.

"Maybe 30 years ago, there were not many hotels and people did not travel in this fashion. But times have changed and our industry has to be allowed to change too."

Matta, he adds, has been calling for a change to the way things are done in the industry but these calls have always fallen on deaf ears.

Another outdated law is the requirement for all tour vehicles ferrying more than seven persons to have a tour guide present.

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