KUALA LUMPUR: Air travelers leaving Malaysia will have to pay an airport tax ranging from $2 to $37 from Sept. 1.
The so-called departure levy seeks to boost the government’s coffers and stimulate domestic tourism.
Government and tourism officials on Saturday defended the tax, saying there had been no negative effects since it was first mooted in April.
“Nobody likes taxes,” Uzaidi Udanis, president of the Malaysia Tourism Council, told Arab News. “However, the country needs to upgrade its tourism infrastructure and services, and that requires money from the government.”
The levy was unlikely to harm tourism in the country, he told Arab News.
“At the moment there are a lot of bookings in many hotels and some are fully booked. There is an influx of tourists and some vendors have expanded their services,” he said.
Malaysia’s Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng on Wednesday set the departure levy based on the destination and class of airline flight, according to local media reports.
Travelers to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries will pay $1.92 and those flying to non-ASEAN countries $12.
ASEAN countries include Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei.
Travelers to non-ASEAN destinations flying in economy class will be taxed $4.81, and those traveling in non-economy classes will pay $37. Children under two years of age, those on airport transit within 12 hours, and cabin crew are exempt from the tax.
Lim said that the increased tax revenue will be used to maintain the environment and promote the country as a tourist destination.
Last month the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unveiled the Visit Malaysia tourism campaign for 2020.
Fong Lailyn, sales director of Messe Worldwide, said that the new tax was unlikely to “become an issue” since departure levies were common in other countries.
“However, the challenge is implementation and proper collection, and what the money is used for,” she said.