‘Award winners’ feel the burn after falling for prestigious prize scam

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 16 May 2019

PETALING JAYA: It started as a proud achievement for Mike, Farouq, Shantini (not their real names) when they found out that they were receiving awards at the Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Award. But these tourism players are no longer bragging about their prizes. In fact, they have distanced themselves from the awards event.

On April 11, the trio were in their best formal wear and were excited to be recognised in front of industry peers. The Asia Pacific Tourism and Travel Federation (APTTF) had told them that they were getting very prestigious awards.

They told The Star that although they had never heard of the organisation before that, they were convinced to spend the money and time to attend the awards ceremony. It helped that they were informed that Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines endorsed the event.

“It seemed like it was going to be a grand affair as there were photo walls and refreshments aplenty.

I think everyone was equally as excited,” Mike said.

“But my colleagues and I realised that something was off when the event started to fall apart.”

Mike described a haphazard and disorganised event where awards were not distributed according to categories, some winners received incorrect awards and several awards went missing.

“At some point, the APTTF CEO took the microphone from the emcee and started hosting on his own.“We were all a little annoyed and disappointed. It was shocking how they charged us RM500 to RM700 per person for this,” he said, adding that he later found out that like him, most of the attendees were first-timers at the event and knew little about the APTTF.

Farouq’s company was told that it would get five awards. Therefore, he did not hesitate to purchase a RM4,500 corporate table. But it was presented with only three awards that day.

Kedah-based Shantini, who was also supposed to win an award, said she was told that she was nominated by Tourism Malaysia.

Shantini said she was asked to give a talk at the event and that she would be reimbursed for her flight ticket to Kuala Lumpur. She was empty-handed when the event ended and she did not get paid for the airfare.

“The red flags of disorganisation appeared early. No speakers were listed on the organisation’s website or on social media. The event dates were incorrect. No shout-outs on social media beyond congratulating various hotels,” she said.

“My award was also ‘misplaced’. Nearly four weeks later, I have not been thanked for my time or reimbursed for my airfare despite me sending several email.

“But I learned a valuable lesson in all of this, and that is not to take at face value any event ‘endorsed’ with any country’s official tourism logo, especially if the event appears disorganised.”

According to Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia is a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organi­sation, while Tourism Malaysia is a member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association and the Asean Tourism Association.

Tourism Malaysia advises travel-related companies to check with its corporate communications division or the Tourism Ministry’s corporate communications unit about a travel association’s legitimacy before joining the organisation.

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