Matta claims Tour Buddy service ‘against the law’

Datuk Tan Kok Liang (File Photo)

KUCHING: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) has claimed that the Tour Buddy service is “against the law”.

In a press statement yesterday, Matta said it is disappointed with the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) and Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for introducing the Tour Buddy service to Malaysia as it could “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,” Matta said in the press statement.

Matta president Datuk Tan Kok Liang cited Clause 19 of the Tourism Industry Act 1992, which states, “(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. (2) Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.”

He stressed that it did 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.

“While it is easy to stop a tour bus and check for a tourist guide 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,” he pointed out.

Tan called tour buddies “illegal tourist guides” who would be in trouble if caught by officers from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture when enforcing the Tourism Industry Act.

“Also, 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.

“Also, 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 added.

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

According to him, unregulated freelancers would 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 with and enforced to ensure a level playing field for all,” he stressed.

Tan also advised Matta members not to engage Tour Buddy’s services.

Matta represents over 3,200 tour and travel companies nationwide.

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