Govt considers higher fines for bogus Umrah operators


Ministry of Tourism and Culture (MOTAC) is considering to increase penalties for unscrupulous tour operators that offer fraudulent umrah packages.

MOTAC deputy secretary general Haslina Abdul Hamid (picture) said bogus operators offering these packages have caused losses amounting RM12.4 million from 2012 to May 2018.

“Based on the statistics that we have from 2012 until May 2018, 359 cases were reported, and we have charged about RM610,000 compound involving around 106 cases. Around RM12.4 million losses have been reported during the period,” Haslina said.

“We are now reviewing the penalty because the amount we have now is minimal. We are planning to increase the compound to show travel agencies that we are handling this fraudulent umrah packages very seriously,” she told reporters at the launch of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents’ (Matta) first business-to-business (B2B) Umrah and Muslim Holidays for 2018 in Kuala Lumpur (KL) yesterday.

Haslina said the reviewed penalty has to be tabled and brought to the new Cabinet’s discussion following the appointment of Datuk Mohamad Din Ketapi as the new tourism, arts and culture minister.

In Malaysia, there are 356 licensed travel agencies which offer umrah packages, of which 80 are travel agencies with Muasassah (Umrah Special Licence [LKU]), while another 276 travel agencies are non-Muasassah agents.

Out of those numbers, 79 of the LKU travel agencies are Matta members with 256 Matta members under non-Muasassah.

Matta president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said enforcement policies need to be revisited, and heavier penalties should be imposed on “middleman” cheating umrah to safeguard the interests of Bumiputera tour operators, and for the benefit of the industry as a whole.

“We must educate consumers to practise diligence buying such packages. A little background search — on the operator, comparing prices of the packages, the difference in visas to ensure that they are not cheated of their life savings,” Tan said.

He added that there were an estimated 131 million Muslim visitor arrivals globally in 2017, up from 121 million in 2016 — and this is aimed to grow to 156 million visitors by 2020.

Matta has dedicated an Umrah Pavilion at Hall 1M, Putra World Trade Centre, KL for the upcoming Matta Fair in September to accommodate Bumiputera tour operators specialising in umrah packages with more than 80 booths.

As of yesterday, 80% of the booths for Hall 1M has been taken by travel agencies for the upcoming event.