RECENTLY, a couple was arrested for cheating. The victim paid online for a homestay in Jalan Pasir Panjang in Kuala Terengganu, only to discover that the facility was non-existent.
This prompted State Tourism, Culture and Digital Technology Committee deputy chairman Sulaiman Sulong to issue a statement advising tourists planning to holiday in Terengganu to only deal with licensed agents.
He said guides for tourist destinations are available on the State Tourism Development Department’s social media pages.
He added that the list of licensed tourist agents is found on the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry’s (Motac) website at https://www.motac.gov.my/semakan/tobtab.
The advice may be well intentioned but it is of little help. It also shows the disconnect between those perched on the top in tourism and what is happening on the ground.
To begin with, the main reason most tourists choose homestays over licensed hotels is that they wish to pay less.
And unlike homestays on Motac’s programme, others are unlicensed and unregistered. The latter advertise online or with small signs by the roadside. These are unlikely to be listed on the websites of Motac or a state government agency.
Nor would registered tourism agents be selling unlicensed homestays as companies regulated as “tour operating business and travel agency business” are not allowed to deal with unlicensed tour operators.
In any case, many online shoppers will continue to be scammed. Those looking for bargains are particularly vulnerable, and even those casually surfing the internet could be enticed by irresistible offers that are too good to be true.
There should be a systematic way to keep track of cheap or suspicious online offers for holiday services without having to employ people just to do such work. Instead, the State Tourism, Culture and Digital Technology Committee could form a task force to tackle online scams.
Private sector personnel from hotels, homestays and travel agents could be roped in to conduct surveillance and a mechanism in place to facilitate reports of fraudulent activities so that the police could conduct sting operations without delay and scammers are apprehended.
If this were to be done in all the states and territories, it would certainly reduce the number of scams targeted at holidaymakers, although it would be impossible to wipe out all online cheating cases as many people will continue to be greedy, frightened, and hungry for love. – June 15, 2022.
* Y.S. Chan reads The Malaysian Insight.