KUCHING: With the tourism industry going digital, travellers have undoubtedly had an easier time planning their itinerary — from booking flights and accommodations to getting the best deals.

Travellers can search online travel agencies such as Booking.com, Agoda and Traveloka, do their
reservations and they will directly pass the bookings to service providers without extra cost.

But this isn’t the only challenges faced by many travel agencies.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah (third right) with Abang Habibbudin (second right) at his booth.
Abang Habibbudin reveals the presence of illegal tour guides and tour agencies.

In an exclusive with New Sarawak Tribune at the Matta Fair programme here at Boulevard Shopping Mall, a travel consultant at Inter-Continental Travel Centre Sdn Bhd, Abang Habibbudin Abang Azahari, revealed that the presence of illegal tour guides and tour agencies is among many issues plaguing the industry.

“Illegal tour guides usually will use illegal vehicles or public buses to service the tourists.

“For example, vehicles without the ‘Bas Persiaran’ label are used by illegal operators to do tours.

“They even sometimes use
minibuses, which are supposed to service public commuters on the routes assigned to them.

“Sometimes, tour companies
prefer unlicensed personnel to be the guides while the proper guides will be just ‘sit-ins’,” he explained.

Stressing the importance of hiring licensed tour operators, he warned that hiring illegal tour operators may put the tourists’ safety at risk.

“If something happens on the road, tourists are unable to make any claims from these unlicensed tour operators,” he warned.

Highlighting the risks of purchasing uncertified tourism packages online, Abang Habibbudin reminded consumers to find ways to protect themselves against scammers.

“Consumers can find out the status of a travel and tour company, and whether it is legitimate, online. They must also be aware of the terms and conditions before making a
booking.”

In finding a reliable travel agent, he advised consumers to seek out information about travel agents from certified sources such as Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.

“To check whether the companies are recognised by travel associations, consumers can check the online
registry of all licensed travel businesses at www.motac.gov.my/en/check/tobtab.

“Besides browsing the company’s website and its online reviews, it is better for consumers to take the
initiative and visit the company to
further gauge its capabilities by looking at the size of its operations, resources and authenticity,” he elaborated.

With many consumers easily influenced by the tonnes of promotional deals on social media, Abang Habibbudin pointed out the need to educate them on the importance of hospitality service.

“Of course, most consumers crave for cheap and good service.

“But there is no such thing as free lunch. Be cautious on the tour deal fare.

“If the offer is unbelievably super cheap fare, especially by those who offer you this through Facebook and WhatsApp, these offers are often scams,” he warned.

Quickly noting that not all are scammers, he said there are many legitimate tour operators available who offer reasonable prices.

“In fact, consumers can enjoy promotional deals during the Matta fair,” he said, adding that his travel agency now offers flights to Mulu at affordable fares.