Tourism players in Malaysia are calling on the authorities to be vigilant and proactive in taking action against illegal tour operators as the industry prepares for a tourism reset, as an imminent announcement on the reopening of borders will be made soon.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) president, Uzaidi Udanis, shared that illegal tour operators have been in existence since he joined the tourism industry in 1985, but they have never been eradicated due to lack of enforcement.
He called on the government to empower tourism associations such as MITA to assist in regulating the industry and weed out these illegal operators who compete with legal tour operators on pricing, and could inadvertently spoil Malaysia’s tourism reputation.
Inbound tour operator Zahira Tahir, founder and CEO, Universal Holidays Travel and Tourism, said such illegal tour operators spoilt the Arabic- and Indonesian-speaking markets in pre-pandemic times by offering tours at highly-reduced rates.
She said: “These illegal operators do not pay licensing fees, use their own vehicles, and double up as tour guides. The information they relay to tourists may also not be factually accurate, and if tourists have a bad experience, they will not revisit the country.”
As such, there’s no better time than now to take the steps to prevent the return of these unlicensed tour operators, Jimmy Leong, president and Johor chapter chairman of the Malaysia Tour Guides Association (MTGA), stressed.
He shared that MTGA has highlighted the issue to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, as well as the transport ministry,on many different occasions but the problem has not been nipped in the bud.
From his experience, in pre-pandemic times, illegal tour operators who targeted the Singapore market were rampant.
“They mainly used private MPV and picked passengers up from their homes in Singapore, and took them on tours to Johor, Melaka, Kuala Lumpur and Perak,” Leong elaborated.
Although such activities have quietened down due to the current pandemic, Leong fears that such individuals and activities will resurface when borders eventually reopen due to the lack of enforcement.