KOTA KINABALU: Tourism entrepreneurs in Sabah hope Budget 2023 will see larger allocations for tourism and another credit moratorium to help struggling tour and tour operators.
Sabah Tourism Association chairman Tony Chew said it was time to kickstart the sector’s growth here as tourism around the world returns to normal. He added that Sabah is also hoping to return to its status as one of the biggest contributors to the country’s tourism industry.
To do that, Chew said industry players need financial support in the form of “friendly” loan packages.
“What’s the point of reopening borders and allowing tourists to enter the country if these tour operators and related companies cannot provide their services because, for example, they don’t have the funds to hire more people or renew permits and insurance?” he said.
The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit by the travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic.
Chew called on the government to allocate a large sum of money to help the tourism industry, saying it would pay big dividends in the long run.
“The whole world will be traveling again, so the money spent by the government will definitely be recovered. It’s a win-win situation for the government and the tourism sector,” he said.
“We don’t expect the government to spoon feed us, but we need more help to get back to where we were before the pandemic.”
Meanwhile, President of the Sabah Travel and Tourism Agencies Association, Winston Liaw, said he believes providing incentives and subsidies to industry players will do more for the sector than large allocations to tourism promotion.
He added that the state should focus on attracting high-income tourists, especially foreigners interested in the health and wellness aspect of tourism.
Meanwhile, on the issue of credit moratoriums, Liaw hoped the government would extend them by another six months for tourism industry stakeholders.
According to Liaw, only 30% of tourism industry players in Sabah have recovered from the pandemic.
He said while tour operators are now back up and running, many players are struggling to stay afloat.
“This is because banks are pressuring industry players to repay loans and are unable to do so due to many other commitments,” he said.
“This year is actually much more difficult than 2020 and 2021.”
The 2023 budget will be presented on October 7th.