PETALING JAYA: Incentives for cultural performances, higher matching grants for marketing and tourism recovery funding via soft loans are among the suggestions made by local tourism and hotel industry players to be included in the coming Budget 2023.

Malaysian Inbound Tourists Association president Uzaidi Udanis said it had made engagements with the Finance Ministry to submit its proposals last month.

“Now that our country has re-opened its international borders, we need to be able to compete with the other countries, including neighbouring ones such as Indonesia and Thailand.

“Since our industry depends heavily on international marketing, perhaps the Finance Ministry can provide us with a special marketing grant to carry out more domestic and international marketing activities,” he said.

The tabling of Budget 2023 is set for Oct 7.

Uzaidi pointed out that the previous Budget had set aside allocations for similar matching grants but the amount was not enough.

“We have over 6,000 operators under us across the country and we need to make more effort to promote travel to Europe and even Saudi Arabia. We hope the government can increase the allocation,” he said.

Another suggestion was to provide incentives for industry players willing to make more unique content such as cultural shows in a bid to attract tourists.

“We need some incentives for industry players and organisers to highlight our cultural shows. The response has been good if we look at the recent Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day celebrations.

“International travellers are happy to see our cultural shows and we want them to come back to Malaysia,” he said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Christina Toh said in view of the massive upgrading and reinvestment required for the industry, the tax incentives for investment and reinvestment for tourism and hotels should be extended to all categories until 2025.

MAH is also seeking tourism recovery funding via soft loans that are interest-free or with low interest for reinvestment, upgrading, repair and maintenance of hotel properties as well as for operations.

Malaysian Budget and Business Hotel Association president Dr Sri Ganesh Michiel wants the government to enact specific laws to regulate online travel agents as well as a set of guidelines for short-term residential accommodation, which is long overdue.

He also proposed abolishing the tourism tax and replacing it with a more efficient and transparent tax system for all parties.

“The tourism tax discourages tourists from staying at hotels and they will opt to book unlicensed or illegal accommodation,” he said.