JOHOR BARU: Tourism and Culture Ministry Johor office director Mohammad Isa Abdul Halim said the ministry has identified several illegal tour operators in the state.
He said most of them operate in the Iskandar Malaysia development region to cash in on the booming tourism sector in South Johor.
“We are working with the local authorities to identify them as some of these operators are advertised as different businesses,” he said at the the Islamic Tourism Exhibition and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Johor Fair 2014 at Danga City Mall Expo Centre.
MATTA president Hamzah Rahmat said the Government must take stern action against illegal tour operators because they give the industry and Malaysia a bad image.
“The issue of illegal tour operators is similar to the never-ending problem of taxi touts at the KLIA, which has been going on for so many years,” he said.
Hamzah was commenting on the many complaints concerning illegal tour operators in Sabah, which he claimed range from customers getting cheated to tourists being molested.
The problem, he said, was not limited to Sabah but occurred in other states as well, and this not only damages the tourism industry but also affects the business of licensed operators.
“Tourism generates billions of ringgit so the Government must be firm and take these offenders to court, as well as impose higher penalties,” said Hamzah.
Meanwhile, state Tourism, Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong who launched the fair, is confident that Johor will achieve its target of 5.7 million tourists in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 with the opening of three more international routes via the Senai International Airport (LTAS).
Tee said the three direct international routes from Johor Baru, namely to Yogyakarta, Lombok and Ho Chi Minh were provided by AirAsia.
“I believe that tourist attractions such as Hello Kitty Theme Park, Legoland and the Johor Premium Outlet have helped increase the number of international routes through Johor,” he told reporters.