Malaysia's new tourism tax unlikely to deter visitors from Singapore

Go-KL buses waiting for passengers outside the popular Suria KLCC shopping mall in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
Go-KL buses waiting for passengers outside the popular Suria KLCC shopping mall in downtown Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO: LAND PUBLIC TRANSPORT COMMISSION OF MALAYSIA

SINGAPORE - Visitors, travel agencies and transport operators The Straits Times spoke to said they believe the stronger Singapore dollar will mitigate the introduction of Malaysia's new tourism tax.

The tourism tax of between RM2.50 (80 Singapore cents) and RM20, will be imposed on both Malaysians and foreigners, regardless of whether they are on a leisure or business trip, the New Straits Times reported. This is on top of a 6 per cent goods and services tax.

The new tax, which kicks in on Aug 1, does not apply to homestays, premises maintained by religious institutions not for commercial purposes, and premises with fewer than 10 rooms.

Student Tham You Wai, 22, who visits Malaysia once every two months, said: "The impact from the tax will not be that significant due to the favourable exchange rate. I will still continue to visit Malaysia."

The exchange rate was RM3.08 to S$1 on June 7.

He added: "Mine are usually day trips to Johor Baru, so it will not affect me since this tax is targeted at accommodation."

Madam Cecilia Goh, 55, said the new tax will not stop her from her business and leisure trips to Malaysia.

She usually stays in four-star hotels, which typically cost her about RM200 per night. When the new tourism tax kicks in, it will cost her an additional RM10 per night.

Travel agencies and transport operators said there has been no impact on their business.

Sales manager of Premier Bus Singapore Sharon Ang Shu Yi, 35, said that bookings for bus rides to Malaysia are still flowing in steadily, even for the months following the tax implementation.

The favourable exchange rate helps mitigate the new tax, Ms Ang said.

Madam Neo Lilian, 50, the operations manager of Superior Tours, said: "There is nothing much we can do if Malaysia decides to impose such a tax."

She said that the cost incurred from the tax will be passed on to customers, specifically those who book tours to Malaysia that include hotel stays.

While she foresees a handful of cancellations, she said it will not affect the overall business as most Singaporeans will continue with their trips. Most of the company's tour packages are to Malaysia.

Visitors from Singapore account for the biggest group of arrivals in Malaysia.

According to official figures from the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, Malaysia recorded close to 13 million tourist arrivals from Singapore last year.