Muslims reminded to choose umrah packages carefully

SIBU: Muslims must be wary of umrah package bargains offered by certain agents or tour management companies, in view of the many travel scams which have been happening lately.

According to Tourism and Culture Ministry (Motac)’s tourism licensing division undersecretary Siti Nor Minu, her division received 214 complaints involving umrah travel fraud between 2012 and last month.

“In the same period, 3,454 cases involving over RM21 million had been referred to the Tribunal for Consumer Claims (TTPM). Police also received 231 complaints involving losses of more than RM9 million,” she told reporters here yesterday after having officiating at the launch of an awareness campaign on scams involving umrah and ‘ziarah’ (visit), as well as consumers’ rights at Sibu Islamic Complex.

State Motac director Suriya Charles Buas was also present.

Siti Nor said in most cases, the victims only realised that that they had been cheated upon arrival for or during the ‘umrah’ (a non-obligatory rite that is similar to the haj, being also performed at Mecca and Medina).

“In many cases, either there was no accommodation provided upon their arrival at the Holy Land, or no tourist guide to facilitate their stay there including matters pertaining to traveller’s visas and immigration,” she pointed out.

On the campaign, Siti Nor hoped that it would help local Muslims to differentiate genuine haj/umrah/ziarah tour operators and agencies from the scammers.

“It’s all about making the right and informed choice. This is also in line with the provision under the Tourism Industry Act 1992. Another way is for you to contact the ministry and find out whether any of these travel agents and companies are registered with and licensed under Motac. We have the list of licensed operators – complete with the date of business commencement and expiry.

“You can also identify Motac-licensed tour agencies and companies by looking at the legitimate Motac stickers in front of their premises,” she said.

Meanwhile, Charles said Motac would take action against unlicensed umrah tour and travel operators through a series of integrated enforcement programmes with relevant government agencies.

“In this regard, the feedback from the public is crucial. We want the public to become the eyes and ears of Motac in identifying such scams,” he said.

On the campaign, Charles said it was the first of its series, with Sibu to be the first host this year.

“The campaign will be run from time to time either at local suraus and mosques, or at ‘kampung’ (villages) and community halls,” he said.

Last year, police received a case where a family in Saratok had fallen victim to an umrah package scam. It is reported that the family incurred a total loss of RM288,622.

This year to date, the TTPM has recorded three such cases in Kuching, but none here.

Source : The Borneo Post

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