The Borneo Post (Sabah)

PEMERKASA offers tourism relief during hard times

- By Irene C reporters@theborneop­

KUCHING: The aid for tourism under the PEMERKASA stimulus package could not have come at a better time for homestay operator, Elisa Azura Ali, who has not had a single guest since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Sarawak.

She has been operating the homestay, Muhammad Guestshous­e, here for seven years and she continues to maintain the property although she has had no income from it.

“We opened as usual but did not get any customers. We had two part-time cleaners whom we hire once in a while to keep the homestay clean,” she said when contacted.

With the government aid under the PEMERKASA stimulus package, Elisa can heave a sigh of relief.

She is eligible for the oneoff cash assistance of RM600 and the Special Aid Grant which is between RM3,000 and RM5,000 given to 4,000 homestay operators registered with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC).

Unfortunat­ely, as she did not get any business, the tourism tax and services tax for hotel accommodat­ion and postponeme­nt in income tax submission, which are also offered by PEMERKASA, did not apply to her.

“The PEMERKASA stimulus package is good enough. What needs to be done later when the pandemic is over is to promote local tourism. This also helps entreprene­urs in the homestay businesses after a long period of staying idle,” said Elisa.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Associatio­n of Hotels Sarawak Chapter Chairman John Teo said the pandemic had caused some smaller companies to cease operation as there were no foreign tourists entering Sarawak.

Three to six months after the MCO was implemente­d, he said most three to five stars hotels had already laid off at least 30 to 50 per cent of their food and beverage staff as restaurant­s and bars were not permitted to open.

In April 2020, the bigger star-rated hotels were used as quarantine centres for people arriving in the state by air at a fixed rate of RM150 per person or per room.

Teo said hoteliers here hoped that the pandemic would end soon so that they could go back to doing business. While he welcomed the government’s aid for the industry under PEMERKASA, Teo felt more could still be done as they could not enjoy assistance like the tourism tax exemption due to restrictio­ns on internatio­nal travel.

He hoped Sarawak would become a Covid-19 ‘green zone’ soon so that the state could be part of a domestic travel bubble and eventually start receiving foreign tourists from ‘green zone’ countries.

“Regardless of the amount announced by the government, it does offer some sort of assistance to all tourism Industry players.”

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