KOTA KINABALU: An allegation that illegal tourist guides from China are operating in Sabah is unfounded, a Malaysian tourism official has clarified.
Ag Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar, the Sabah director of the Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac) said accusations of illegal foreign tour guides made by Sabah Tourist Guide Association and Bumiputera Tourist Guide Association was unfounded.
He was quoted on the online version of a national media that Motac had conducted investigation against the tour company alleged to have engaged the services of tour guides from China.
“We found that the alleged company has conducted their business legally according to the Tourism Industry Act 1992,” Ahmad Zaki said in a statement published by NST online.
“At that point of time, they had a licence tourist guide and tour buses waiting at the airport to receive the tourists upon arrival.”
The report said that on Saturday, a group of Chinese tourists were greeted by disgruntled local tour guides, who were members of the two associations, after arriving at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport shortly after midnight.
The tourists were in the state for holiday under a licensed local tour company said to be managed by a South Korean.
The protesters claimed that the company had hired illegal tour guides and they were seen holding papers with “Sabah does not welcome illegal operator” and “Sabah does not welcome unlicensed tour guide” written on them.
NST online also claimed that the local group confronted the tourists and questioned the legitimacy of their guide.
The protesters followed the tourists as they boarded their tour bus and continued to tell them the consequences for not hiring a local guide.
The tourists were said to have been stranded for two hours as their guide appointed by the company had apparently bolted earlier when confronted by the locals.
Ahmad Zaki said Motac viewed the incident seriously and had requested the police to look into whether the assembly is deemed illegal.
He also warned that Motac will not hesitate to revoke all the guides licences with immediate effect if they are found to have committed an offence.
The portal also quoted Masidi Manjun, the State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister saying the incident could tarnish Sabah’s image as a preferred destination for the Chinese tourists.
“If this happened, it would indirectly affect local tour guides and related tourism service providers,” he was quoted saying.
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