MIRI: The Federal government should consider reviewing its decision to implement Tourism Tax (TTx) beginning July 1, as it can adversely affect tourist arrivals in Sarawak.
Malaysian Association Hotels (Sarawak chapter) honorary secretary-general John Teo Peng Yew said travelling to Sarawak was already expensive as compared to other tourism destinations such as Bali, Hong Kong and Taiwan, with travellers having to fork out RM1,145 for one way or RM2,000 for a return flight ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Sibu.
"But one can fly from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok return at only RM409, making it difficult to promote Sarawak due to such a high fare," he told Bernama.
He said air connectivity pose to be a problem for Sarawak, especially the air fare, which must be solved first before the Federal government decides to proceed with the implementation of the TTx.
Teo added that besides affecting tourist arrivals, the TTx could spell bad business for licensed hotel operators as many travellers are expected to stay in unlicensed budget motels, inns and homestay in Sarawak to avoid paying tax.
"There are many of them (unlicensed budget motels, inns and homestays) operating in Sarawak, paying only residential rates for utilities."
While for licensed hotels, Teo said the operators needed to pay all sorts of regulatory expense fees, which led to higher costs of operation such as goods and services tax (GST), minimum wages and utilities bill.
For Sarawak, he noted, 90 per cent of hotel guests were Sarawakians who were travelling for business purposes within the state. There were only less than five per cent of foreigners and locals who were travelling for leisure purposes.
He said that meant the TTx would be an additional financial burden for local guests compared to foreigners as the majority of hotel guests in Sarawak were from locals and not from foreigners.
For Miri, he said the declining oil prices since 2015 had affected hotel occupancy. Previously, hotel occupancy rate have always been above 73 per cent but for this year, up till March, the average occupancy rate had dropped to 42 per cent. -- Bernama