Travel and tour companies in Sabah received a jolt of good news when the state government recently announced the launch of a domestic stimulus, which is aimed at assisting local tourism players amid the challenging conditions they are currently facing during the pandemic.
From the RM5 million allocated for travel incentives and matching grants for MICE programmes to aid in Sabah’s tourism promotion incentives, RM2 million (US$490,000) is set aside for this new Domestic Travel Stimulus to aid Sabah-based tour operators to boost domestic travel, revealed caretaker state minister of tourism, culture and environment Christina Liew.
Under the Domestic Travel Stimulus, Sabah-based licensed tour operators selling domestic tour packages will be eligible for the incentive of RM50 per traveller, for a minimum of four pax and up to 25 pax per package, which mean RM200 to RM1,250 would be given out for domestic tour packages.
The packages, which include accommodation, transportation and tours, must have a minimum duration of three days, two nights. The booking/travelling period is from 17 September 2020 to 31 March 2021.
The period for which this stimulus is applicable as an especially crucial window to boost domestic travel, says Borneo Trails, Tours & Travel general manager Tan Kok Liang, especially as Malaysia remains closed and any reopening of borders to international tourism is not happening until 2021.
Tan, who is also president of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), adds that the stimulus is a fair distribution initiative for tourism stakeholders, primarily tour operators, homestays, product owners, dive operators and tour guides who had initially been left out of the Sabah New Deal that was unveiled in June.
Under the RM240 million Sabah New Deal, which marked the second phase of the Covid-19 aid package from the state, RM22 million was set aside to revive Sabah tourism with RM10 million especially for smaller hospitality players to upgrade their infrastructure and community-based tourism products, while RM7 million was allocated for offsetting the 50 percent discount on entrance fees at tourism attractions.
This latest incentive is especially welcomed by operator of Msi Tours & Travel Mohammad Abdul Rahman, who is based in Lahad Datu. The coastal town is the epicentre of a major Covid-19 cluster that was mainly contained within a detention centre and prison, although the emergence of other clusters in Sabah's north have dampened tourism.
Masenang Tours operation director Chin Va Kun hopes that there would be more of such stimulus schemes in the near future, but points out that the requirements should be less stringent in requiring copies of boarding passes when such information, as well as copies of travellers' identity cards/passports, accommodation invoices and tax invoices are already included as part of the sale package.
Operators need to provide the above in addition to copies of their trading and relevant Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture licenses when applying for the incentive.
Some operators, however, expressed their concerns if the all the incentives announced would still be in place after the upcoming snap state elections on 26 September.