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KUCHING Sarawak Tourism Minister, Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah, today confirmed Malaysians are exempted from the new tourism tax when they stay in three-star hotels and below.
In a post Cabinet press conference late this afternoon, he said the exemption was suggested by Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg when he met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a week ago for talks on the Pujut by-election.
Yesterday in Petaling Jaya, Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah had disclosed there are plans to exempt locals staying at three-star hotels and lower-grade accommodation from the new tourism tax.
“We are studying this and will be making an announcement soon,” he was quoted as saying by new reports after launching The Global Entrepreneurship Competition.
Karim said the exemption was one of two suggestions Putrajaya had agreed to accede to on the controversial tax which Sarawak was unhappy about as they were never properly consulted on prior to tabling it in parliament.
He said Putrajaya had also agreed to funnel the state’s share of the tax straight to the government’s coffer rather than to the ministry’s.
Karim at the same time is still pushing for the implementation of the tax to be deferred.
“We’re just being practical here. There’s a time constraint.
“I don’t think its possible to implement the tax collection on July 1.
“We’re now in the last week of June and Raya is just round the corner.”
He said with the new decision to exempt Malaysians from the tax when staying in 3-star hotels and below, hoteliers needed to be briefed.
“They have not and they have also yet to be fully briefed on the collection mechanics.”
“Asking for a deferment does not mean we are against it,” alluding to the last time he asked for a deferment which ended in a highly publicised row with Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.
Nazri had labelled Karim a “gangster” and a political green horn who should just “shut up”.
The federal minister never apologised for his uncouth remarks and Karim had not spoken to him since.
The tourism tax is between RM2.50 and RM20 charged for a night’s stay.
The tax rate, charged on a per-room, per-night basis, is RM20 for five-star accommodation, RM15 for four-star, RM10 for three-star, RM5 for two-star and RM2.50 for non-rated accommodation, including budget hotels.
The revenue collected would be divided equally among Sarawak, Sabah and peninsular Malaysia and are to be used to promote Malaysia overseas and upgrade tourism facilities.
The tourism tax is expected to bring in RM654.62mil if there is a 60% occupancy rate at the more than 11 million hotel rooms nationwide but Karim said the amount should be lower now that Malaysian are exempted from paying in the lower rated accommodations. – dayakdaily.com