By ROYCE CHEAH and SYLVIA LOOInewsdesk@thestar.com.my
KUALA LUMPUR: The Tourism Ministry may require travellers leaving the country to have insurance coverage in a move to protect their loved ones.
This will be provided for in an amendment to the Tourism Act, which will also see travellers paying a surcharge to guard them against tour companies that go bust.
“Many Malaysians do not buy extra insurance, as they assume that existing policies will protect them.
“Travellers should remember that anything can happen and they cannot assume the coverage given by credit card companies is sufficient,” said Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim.
He was speaking to reporters after launching the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agencies (Matta) Medi Evac Insurance scheme here yesterday.
Lim said protection for travellers has become an urgent concern following recent events that had left travellers in a lurch.
These included a bus crash involving some Malaysian tourists in China and the recent collapse of tour company Excellence Holiday Sdn Bhd, which caused scores of travellers to lose the money they had paid in advance for tour packages.
Lim said consumer groups would be consulted about the travellers insurance before the proposal is forwarded to the Government.
He commended Matta on its Medi Evac scheme – a cashless insurance that covers medical, repatriation and hospitalisation costs of up to RM100,000 – but added that it was not compulsory for travel agents to subscribe to Matta’s scheme.
He said the ministry encouraged others to also provide solutions for the industry in the short-term.
In the long-term, the ministry was studying a compensation model used in Hong Kong, where travellers contribute 0.3% of the cost of the tour package into a trust fund.
Speaking at another function, Lim said the surcharge based on the Hong Kong model, would protect travellers against tour companies that go bust.
He said a committee comprising representatives from the Government and Matta would handle the fund.
The ministry hopes to implement the plan by the year’s end or by early next year, he told reporters after opening the Tapah MCA division annual general meeting in Perak on Monday.