Baiting tourists with a click

A menace: Photographers are seen approaching tourists around the KLCC area in Kuala Lumpur. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: It’s certainly one for the album – a tourist having a photograph taken in front of the iconic PETRONAS Twin Towers. In terms of a scenic shot, the 88-storey skyscrapers are undoubtedly among the most “valued” in the country.

And it is no wonder why this has led to many individuals preying on tourists on the grounds below. They are persistent in wanting to take photographs for the tourists.

Armed with mobile phones, gimbals and lighting devices, these individuals would pester tourists to have their shots taken, offering between RM5 to RM20 per photograph.

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After getting the go-ahead, they would snap away and then transfer t

he photos via WhatsApp and other forms of social media to the tourist concerned – and then make their demand for payment.

In most cases, it will not just be for that particular photo the tourist requested. Other angles are also sent over so that more payment can be demanded.

In most cases, if one does not give in to their demands, these photograph touts would sneak into the background to try and ruin the snapshots taken by the tourists themselves.

These photographers usually group in popular spots around the KLCC grounds, making sure no one gets away from their “dragnet”.

Some also roam around, pouncing on tourists taking selfies.

“Come and try first. We can take your picture. You can pay later,” said one of the individuals to a reporter from The Star who disguised as a tourist at the KLCC area.

The person offered to accept payment in cash or through online transfer.

A local tourist from the north, who wanted to be known as Cheng, said his family outing turned sour after being harassed by these photographers.

“We did not agree but they were adamant in wanting to take photos for us. Eventually, they left us alone but whenever we tried to take our own pictures, they would come in the background to ruin our shots,” she said.

Another visitor, Siti Hasniza, said she had to pay up to RM100 for five pictures, despite only agreeing for one photo to be taken.

“At first, they said the charge was RM10 per picture. Later they said due to some lighting adjustments that needed to be made, it was RM20 per picture.

“But despite saying we just wanted one picture, the person transferred five over and demanded full payment,” she said.Tourist Lee MJ said he was taking selfies with the Twin Towers in the background when he was approached.

“I was offered RM10 for three pictures and agreed,” he said when met.

However, he said another guy came up and took pictures of him and then offered them for a price which he declined.

Further checks outside the PETRONAS Twin Towers last weekend found at least 15 of these photographers lingering behind the metal barricades from 2pm to 7.30pm.

Some of them said they were aware of the negative feedback about their activities.

“We just want to earn a living and help tourists take nice photos. Not all of us are out to cheat tourists,” one of them told The Star.

One of the photographers, who identified himself as Maha, said buying pictures in bulk would be cheaper.

“For one photo I charge RM5 but for three, it is RM10. The rates are adjusted accordingly,” he said, adding that he had been doing this as a full-time job since 2015.

“We used to sell phone camera accessories but stopped due to poor business,” he said.

Maha added that they were previously allowed to take pictures closer to the Twin Towers but were recently barred.

“We were not allowed into the fountain area after a recent viral video accused us of being touts,” he said.

Meanwhile, several auxiliary police officers interviewed said they first began patrolling the area about three weeks ago.

“We received many complaints from both locals and tourists on the activities of these photographers. We are keeping a close eye on them,” said an officer.

The Kuala Lumpur City Centre management said it was fully aware of the concerns.

“We adopt a proactive approach through ongoing collaboration with the authorities, especially the police to ensure the issue is addressed,” it added.

It said their team had been actively monitoring the issue.

“Together with the local authorities, we will work hand in hand to further mitigate this issue,” it said.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall could not be reached for comment.

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