KUALA LUMPUR : The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is advising its members, numbering over 3,200 tour and travel companies nationwide, not to engage the service of Tour Buddy as it is against the law. MATTA is disappointed with the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) and Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) for introducing Tour Buddy service to Malaysia, which will bring the local tourism industry into disrepute.
There is no doubt that disruptive technology will 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 president Datuk Tan Kok Liang pointed out 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.
Tan explained, "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."While it is easy to stop a tour bus and check for 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."
"Tour buddies are illegal tourist guides and would 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."
"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."
"MATTA welcomes 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, as 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," Tan concluded.