KUALA LUMPUR: The Tourism Industry Act 1992 will be strengthened to enhance enforcement in efforts to combat travel package scams, including umrah packages, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan said the act has not been revised for a long time and needs improvement to better monitor travel package scam cases.

During the question and answer session, he said the ministry relies on complaints it receives for monitoring and that it is unable to thoroughly oversee every incident due to the shortage of enforcement staff.

He was responding to a supplementary question from Muhammad Fawwaz Mohamad Jan (PN-Permatang Pauh), who wanted to know the government’s efforts in helping victims of travel package scams and the follow-up actions taken against companies involved in such fraud.

Khairul Firdaus said the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (MOTAC) is also expected to announce several new criteria this August to ensure umrah operator companies fulfil their commitments.

“MOTAC has held a number of engagement sessions since last year and based on these sessions, we will integrate these umrah companies to make them more organised and regulated to prevent fraud,” he said.

Regarding the number of umrah and haj fraud cases from 2019 until May this year, he said that data from Royal Malaysia Police showed that 252 investigation papers were opened for umrah fraud cases involving losses amounting to RM9.81 million.

A total of 1,549 cases related to umrah package fraud were also recorded by the Tribunal for Consumer Claims Malaysia (TTPM), with total claims of RM29.58 million and awards totalling RM16.37 million.

“From 2023 until May 2024, MOTAC received 349 umrah-related complaints involving losses of RM14.09 million. The ministry advised complainants to file claims with TTPM for compensation and to report scams to the police.

“Following this, MOTAC opened 19 investigation papers, with eight cases fined RM241,000 and the remaining cases are still under investigation,” he said, adding that two umrah operator agencies have had their licences suspended for offences under the Tourism Industry Act 1992.

Khairul Firdaus said that until last May, MOTAC, in collaboration with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, has also blocked and deactivated social media accounts of unlicensed entities found selling travel packages.