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Thursday, 4 May 2017

(The Star) Sabah and Sarawak to gain from proposed tourism tax

KENINGAU: Revenue from tax imposed on hotel room rentals nationwide will be split in three main portions – for peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak , said Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

He said Sabah and Sarawak would receive equal share from the proposed tourism tax, which would be effective by July 1.

“Sabah and Sarawak are large states and we cannot be giving the smaller states in the peninsula the same amount as what we give Sabah and Sarawak,” he said during an event here.

Nazri said it would be unfair to Sabah and Sarawak if the funds were distributed evenly among the other Malaysian states.

The ministry has proposed a tourism services fee of between RM5 and RM30 per room, per night for stays at a hotel or serviced apartment.

Nazri said the tax revenue would be spent mainly on tourism and infrastructure development.

He said such tax was necessary because the Government needed to mitigate uncertainties in the oil-and-gas industry.

Government was expected to collect about RM800mil annually through the new tax, Nazri said.

“This way, areas with the highest occupancy rate such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam will have their hotel room taxes shared with places with lower occupancy,” he added.

The tax, recently passed as part of the Tourism Tax Bill 2017, will allow the Government to impose tourism tax levied on a tourist staying at any accommodation premises made available by an operator at the rate fixed by the minister in accordance with the law.

It shall be the duty of a tourist to pay the tourism tax to the operator of the accommodation premises. Tax exemption is given to programmes organised by Government organisations and departments conventions.

There are over 400,000 hotels nationwide, with Sabah having 29,000 rooms and Sarawak 20,000.

Nazri said the tax would be collected from hotels and Air BnB but homestays and places rented by religious bodies would not be taxed.

“Unregistered room rental operators will also be taxed. We will find them,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nazri said Sabah and Sarawak were still the main states doing great in eco tourism.

He urged local authorities and developers to pick local names for places or roads that were uniquely Sabah.

On requests for a cultural village to be built in Keningau and Pensiangan, he said the Government had struck a deal to develop one between Keningau and Pensiangan.

“It will be fair this way. All folk in these districts can enjoy and use the cultural village together,” he said.

He also assured the people that security in Sabah was under control.