GEORGE TOWN: With tourists coming from all over the world now, unlicensed foreign tour guides have become a nuisance in Penang.
These “tour guides” can converse in several languages, including Spanish and Turkish, and can be seen hustling for clients at the popular heritage enclave.
Penang Tourist Guides Association president Clement Liang said this had become a problem not just in Penang but other states as well.
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“Licensed tour guides charge between RM200 and RM300 for a whole day tour, but these illegal guides will offer a much cheaper price.
“I would like to remind visitors not to fall prey to illegal tour guides as they will be misrepresenting our heritage and might not know the whole story about our history and culture.
“The presence of illegal tour guides might be due to a lack of enforcement. The Tourism (Arts and Culture) Ministry needs to check on this as more illegal guides have appeared now,” he said.
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Malaysia has a law that states only licensed tour guides can conduct tours.
Any group of seven or more tourists would require a licensed tour guide under the Tourism Industry Act 1992.
Section 21(1) of the Tourism Industry Act states that “No person shall act, or hold himself out, as a tourist guide unless he is licensed ....”
Section 21(2) says: “Any person who contravenes subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding seven thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both, and in the case of a continuing offence, shall, in addition, be liable to a daily fine not exceeding five hundred ringgit for each day the offence continues to be committed.”
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“This is enforced in other states like Johor,” Liang said.
“Even operating tour buses without a tour guide is illegal, unless it is just used for transport without going to any local sites.
“Coaches coming from Thailand without any tour guides are also considered illegal under the Act.”
According to Liang, there are locals who are illegal tour guides, but with foreigners posing as tour guides, it is a problem as they probably do not even have a work permit.
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“They must show their badge and wear it to show that they are licensed tour guides,” he said.
Liang said he had raised his concerns with representatives from the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry in Penang.
“It does not fall under the police, so it is the ministry that has to carry out the operation.
“We do hope it can be resolved as foreigners acting as tour guides is not a good thing,” he said.
“There are foreign tour guides who get off cruise ships with the tourists and take them around.
“We know they are not locals and are unlicensed,” he said.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s Penang director Jonathan Freddy P. Bagang said it has not received any official reports on illegal foreign tour guides so far.
“It is clear that only licensed tour guides can conduct tours. We need the public and association to lodge an official complaint to a nearby ministry office.
“This will help us carry out enforcement. It is something we need to investigate as the foreigners must have a work permit.
“If they don’t, then it becomes an immigration problem as well.
“We can then collaborate with the police and relevant departments to take action,” he said.