Passengers flying out of Malaysia will have to pay a departure tax from September 1. The fee will depend on the country of destination and whether the traveler is flying in economy or non-economy.
The president of the Malaysia Tourism Council, Uzaidi Udanis, said: “Nobody likes taxes. However, the country needs to upgrade its tourism infrastructure and services, and that requires money from the government.”
The government has defended the new tax, stating it will not adversely affect tourism in Malaysia.
“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,” Udanis said.
How Much Will the Departure Tax Be?
The tax will not be a high as similar taxes which already exist in some other countries. The following groups of travelers flying out of Malaysia will be taxed as follows:
Flying to ASEAN countries:
- Economy – 8RM (2USD approx.)
- Non-economy -50RM (12USD approx.)
Flying to non-ASEAN countries:
- Economy – 20RM (5USD approx.)
- Non-ASEAN countries – 150RM (36USD approx.)
Departure tax exemptions
Certain groups of travelers will not have to pay the departure tax. Passengers who fall into the following categories will be exempt:
- Infants aged under 24 months.
- Passengers transiting for less than 12 hours.
- Crew members on board any vehicle or aircraft
How Will the Tax Affect Tourism in Malaysia?
There has been some concern over whether the new tax will have an adverse effect on tourism in Malaysia. Certain high-profile businessman have been critical of the new levy.
Tunku Iskandar, group executive chairman of Melewar Group (a Malaysian business conglomerate), criticized the government for not consulting the tourism industry before making the decision to implement the tax.
Iskander said the effect of the tax will not have much of an impact on business class travel as the tax would only represent 1% of the cost of the flight. However, he said that the tax would have a greater effect on those who enter on low-cost flights.
“We should not be over-milking the tourists who actually bring in tourist dollars, ” he said.
The Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (MATTA) has asked for the tax to be delayed until after 2020. They believe this would give time for the tax to be fully worked out and for the government to engage with tourism stakeholders.
The government has rejected these claims, citing recent bookings as evidence against the idea that the tax will negatively affect tourism in Malaysia. The government recently introduced an eVisa for Malaysia as part of an effort to boost tourism.
Do Other Countries Charge a Departure Tax?
Charging a departure tax is nothing new. Many countries already levy departure taxes which are much higher than the tax being implemented in Malaysia.
Malaysia is not even the only country in the Asia-Pacific region to impose a departure tax. Most visitors to Japan are required to pay a departure tax of 1,000JY (9.4USD approx.) and passengers flying out of Singapore’s Changi Airport have to pay additional charges.
In July, New Zealand imposed a tax on most international visitors which can be up to 35NZD (23USD approx.). The Uk charge a progressive departure tax which can be up to 240USD.
Each country has its own rules regarding who is exempt and how it is collected. Many taxes are collected by airline while others are charged directly by the government on departure.