PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) will support any move by the tourism and culture ministry to ensure foreign travel companies engage local tour guides.
“The guidelines already call for foreign companies to get licensed local tour guides if they’re bringing in tourists,” Mita president Uzaidi Udanis said.
Uzaidi said in most cases, these companies did not want to engage local tour guides because they want to save on operational costs, preferring their own guides accompanying the tourists.
On Saturday, Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Mas Ermieyati Samsudin had urged foreign companies to contact local operators in advance to get local tour guides instead of using foreign guides.
However, she admitted Malaysia was still short of tour guides who can speak English, Mandarin and Arabic.
Uzaidi said the tour leader usually acted as an intermediary between the local tour guides and the tourists.
He said these tour leaders normally could speak communicative English.
“That’s good enough for our local tour guides to understand and help the tourists around,” he said.
“The bad thing in not having a local tour guide is that you won’t get to see or experience proper Malaysian culture and sights.
“Only our local tour guides know about this sort of things to provide the full experience to tourists,” added Uzaidi.
Faeez Fadhillah, the chief executive officer of the travel booking engine for Muslim travellers, Tripfez, said local tour guides had vast knowledge of local products, sights and customs.
This sort of knowledge would prove fascinating for tourists.
“Local tour guides and travel agents are in the frontline of the tourism industry and represent Malaysia.
“They are the first to greet travellers coming to Malaysia. As such, it is important for foreign companies to engage with local licensed travel operators for tour guides.”
Faeez, who is also the vice-president for research and technology of the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (Matta), said foreign companies and local travel operators need to find a way to work together and coordinate operations.
“They need to co-exist in order for the tourism industry in Malaysia to further prosper.”
Recently 40 local tour guides had protested against allegedly unlicensed foreign guides at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.
The protesters caused a guide to flee, leaving dozens of Chinese tourists, who had just arrived, stranded for almost two hours.
Sabah Tourism and Culture Ministry director Ahmad Zaki Abu Bakar said this had hurt the state’s tourism image as the tour company was found to be operating legally.
He said a committee will be formed to look at the role of tour guides in the state and the issue of commissions for them.