KOTA KINABALU - Illegal tour operators are mushrooming in Sabah and giving the industry a bad image with complaints ranging from outright cheating to molesting of tourists.
They not only dent the image of the tourism industry but have also bitten into the coffers of legitimate players who comply with industry requirements and who are operating on higher costs, said the Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (MATTA).
Fed up with such a state of affairs, the association wants the enforcement agencies under the Tourism Ministry to act fast against the illegal operators who ply their trade openly and offer dubious tour packages online.
"We want regular enforcement against illegal transporters, unlicensed tour agents and guides," MATTA Sabah chapter chairman Robert Chong said at a press conference here yesterday.
Present were MATTA president Hamzah Rahmat and association vice-president (inbound) K.L. Tan.
Chong said illegal transporters who operated without licence, permit, insurance and tour guides were taking a high risk.
"They undercut prices to compete with legitimate travel agents," he said.
"The illegal operators could be seen operating openly at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, hotels and other tourist spots. It is necessary for the Tourism Ministry to clamp down on them."
"There are many reports of people being cheated by illegal tour agents and there was a case of a tourist who was molested while using an unlicensed boat to the islands off the city."
"It is time for the ministry's enforcement officers to act firmly to protect the industry and the image of Sabah tourism."
Hamzah urged the ministry to take the offenders to court and impose the highest penalty on them.
He said that under the Tourism Licensing Act 1999, such illegal players were liable to be fined up to RM50,000 (S$19,526) or jailed five years.