AirAsia chief: Integrated plan, not more taxes, 'desperately' needed to grow M'sia tourism industry

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 16): Malaysia desperately needs an integrated tourism plan, and not more taxes, to grow its tourism industry, said AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

In a series of tweets today, the outspoken steward of the budget carrier said taxing the industry is not helpful, especially when it is a "low-hanging fruit" for jobs in the country.

"Malaysia desperately needs an integrated tourism plan. No exit tax, lower visa fees or no visa fees[.] And online, an airport that understands low-cost airlines," he tweeted.

"[The] hotel industry is struggling to make money. It has a hotel tax on top of so many service fees," he added.

As of Sept 1, 2017, foreign tourists are taxed RM10 per night at accommodations such as hotels, guest houses, rest houses and homestays as a means of increasing the country's revenue.

On Jan 1 last year, the passenger service charge at klia2 was increased to RM73 from RM50 for travel outside Asean, to equalise rates across all airports.

On March 1 this year, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd started imposing RM8 on excursion buses and RM4 on tour vans for pick-up and drop-off at klia2.

In his Budget 2019 speech, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said a departure levy would be introduced to encourage domestic tourism.

The tax, initially targeted to commence on June 1, has reportedly been postponed to Sept 1.

Fernandes urged the government to grow the country's economy by investing and growing the tourism industry to create more job opportunities.

He also noted tourism is the third largest contributor to Malaysia's foreign exchange receipts and the second largest contributor to the nation's gross domestic product (GDP).

"We should grow tourism. We have amazing tourism product in Desaru, Johor, potential to be another Phuket. Langkawi a jewel. East Malaysia so much there and finally Terengganu ([the] most beautiful state in Malaysia). Invest and grow and get more jobs and GDP," he said.