MITA’s Tour Buddy initiative comes under scrutiny
Just two months after its launch, Tour Buddy, a social media initiative introduced by the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) together with the government agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation, is under fire from the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), TTG Asia reports.
MATTA questions the program’s legality and is urging its members not to use the service. But MITA claims Tour Buddy is well within the law and that MATTA has misunderstood it and assumes it competes with licensed tour guides.
“Tour buddies are illegal tourist guides and would be in hot soup if caught by officers from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture when enforcing Section 21.1 of the Tourism Industry Act, which states that ‘No person shall act, or hold himself out, as a tourist guide unless he is licensed under this part’,” MATTA President KL Tan said.
If Tour Buddy guides organise tour packages and offer them online, this would be in violation of the Tour Operating Business and Travel Agency Business that permits only licensed tour guides and travel agents, he added.
Tourist guides are licensed only to execute tours assigned by tour operators, he argued.
Adam Kamal, MITA secretary general, countered that the program simply involves training participants on how to use the Tour Buddy mobile app to seek information on local places of interest including its history, best food and shopping places in the area.
“Tour buddies are not tourist guides,” he stressed. “They don’t do guiding. They are not meant to replace the role of tourist guides.”
Instead, the initiative can complement existing tour services, being a community-based tourism program that encourages local communities, especially rural ones, to support the tourism ecosystem, he added. For example, they can promote their fruit farms or their village’s best-kept secret attractions, which can in turn benefit the tourism industry.
“Some of the tour buddies love to show their skills to tourists such as cooking, boat skills, video-taking, cycling and dance. MITA believes the Tour Buddy training will enhance the tourist experience and give more reasons for them to stay longer in Malaysia.”