KOTA KINABALU: Illegal tour operators, which have mushroomed lately, are giving Sabah a bad image with complaints of outright cheating and even molest by tourists.
Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (Matta) wants the enforcement agencies under Tourism Ministry to act against the illegal players who ply their trade openly and offering tour packages on websites.
"We want more regular enforcement to be carried out against the illegal transporters, unlicensed tour agents and guides," Matta Sabah chapter chairman Robert Chong told a press conference.
Present were Matta president Hamzah Rahmat and vice-president (Inbound) K.L.Tan.
Chong said there have been many reports of people being cheated by illegal tour agents and there was a case of a tourist who complained of being molested while using an unlicensed boat to the islands off the city.
"These illegal transporters operate without any licence, permit, insurance and tour guides. They are taking a high risk and undercutting their prices to compete with legitimate travel agents," Chang said.
He said the illegal operators could be seen operating openly at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, hotels and other popular tourist spots.
"It is time for the enforcement agency to act firmly to protect the industry and image of Sabah tourism," he added.
Hamzah urged the ministry to charge such offenders with the highest penalties under the Tourism Licensing Act 1999 that provides for a maximum of RM50,000 fine or five years jail term.
"So far we have not heard of any illegal operators being charged under this Act. It should be used to set an example to all illegal operators," he said.
Matta urged tourists to verify the validity of the tour agents to avoid being cheated of their dream holidays.