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Tour Buddy services are illegal
Published on: Friday, February 09, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) advised its members, numbering over 3,200 tour and travel companies nationwide not to engage Tour Buddy services saying it is illegal.

"Tour buddies are illegal tourist guides and will be in hot soup if caught by officers from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture when enforcing Section 21.1 of the Tourism Industry Act, which states: No person shall act, or hold himself out, as a tourist guide unless he is licensed under this Part," said Matta President Datuk Tan Kok Liang (pic).

Matta expressed disappointment with the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) and Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for introducing the Tour Buddy service which it claims will bring the local tourism industry into disrepute.

"There is no doubt that disruptive technology would continue to make many existing jobs redundant while creating new ones, but existing laws must be observed by responsible organisations, unless they are above the law," he said.

He pointed out Clause 19 of the Tourism Industry Act 1992, which states that (1) no licensed tourism enterprise shall employ, or obtain for a tourist or any other person the services of, a tourist guide who is not licensed under this Act or whose licence has been suspended or revoked.

"Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding twenty thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.

"It does not matter whether the person is called a friend or buddy. But as long as the service is no different from that of a tourist guide and provided for a fee, it would be against the law," Tan said.

He said while it is easy to stop a tour bus and check for tourist guides on board, it will be harder to spot others handling less than seven tourists using a small vehicle. "But tour operators will be caught when dissatisfied tourists complain to the authorities."

Tan also said if tour buddies were to organise tour packages and offer them online, it would be in clear violation of the regulations set under the Tour Operating Business and Travel Agency Business (TOBTAB), as only licensed tour and travel agents are permitted to do so.

"Tourist guides are only licensed to execute tours assigned by inbound tour operators, and they are not allowed to organise and offer tour services on their own."

He said Matta welcomed mobile apps that provide accurate and comprehensive information to promote a destination, but not a platform that facilitates individuals to work as freelancers without being regulated.

"This will cause havoc among tour operators and tourist guides that were trained for up to six months to obtain their licence.

"Unless the Tourism Industry Act 1992 undergoes further amendment, all existing laws must be complied and enforced to ensure a level playing field for all", said Tan. - Neil Chan

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