GEORGE TOWN, Oct 27 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) applauds Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak for giving due recognition to the potential of tourism to generate wealth for the country as provided for in the 2018 Budget.
Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said MATTA was delighted with 2020 declared as the next Visit Malaysia Year, as the association had targeted 36 million visitors and RM168 billion in tourism receipts by 2020.
He said the allocation of RM500 million on infrastructure development would strengthen rural tourism and the homestay sector, including eco-tourism facilities like jetties, toilets and signages.
"This is a good challenge for the tourism industry to be private sector-driven, improving fleet modernisation, infrastructure development at resorts and lodges, tour products and digital marketing.
"We are grateful to the prime minister for granting the incentives and funding needed to spur the growth of our tourism industry, and will forward new proposals for the next budget to meet fresh challenges ahead," he said in a statement, here, today.
Earlier, Najib who is also the Finance Minister unveiled the 2018 Budget in Parliament with an allocation of RM280.25 billion compared to RM260.8 billion in the 2017 Budget.
However, Tan said MATTA had also asked for incentives currently given to inbound and domestic tour operators be continued and conditions eased to help new and small players, as many are Bumiputera companies.
"We are grateful that our proposal has been granted. With the eVisa regional hub expansion, Malaysia is certain to attract more visitors from countries with access to this facility," he said.
He added that the upgrading of international airports in Penang and Langkawi, and domestic airports in Kota Bharu, Mukah and Sandakan would ensure greater comfort and convenience to air travellers.
Meanwhile, Ooi Chok Yan, chief executive officer of Penang Global Tourism (PGT), a marketing arm of Tourism Malaysia, said the announcement to approve upgrading work for Penang International Airport (PIA) was a positive news for the tourism industry, especially the state.
He said PIA had already surpassed its maximum capacity of 6.6 million passengers and the announcement would provide a boost to all the tourism-related sectors in Penang.
The PIA receives 216 international and 407 domestic direct flights a week, and four chartered flights a week from China.
It was reported earlier that Qatar Airways would fly directly to Penang three times a week from Doha, Qatar, on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner beginning February next year.