Guiding tours in Malaysia
These information pages can help you get started in learning about some of the laws and registration requirements that may apply to your experiences on Airbnb. These pages include summaries of some of the rules that may apply to different sorts of activities, and contain links to government resources that you may find helpful.
Please understand that these information pages are not comprehensive, and are not legal advice. If you are unsure about how local laws or this information may apply to you or your Experience, we encourage you to check with official sources or seek legal advice.
Please note that we don’t update this information in real time, so you should confirm that the laws or procedures have not changed recently.*
What is a tourist guide or tour operator? When am I likely to be considered as a tourist guide or tour operator?
Under the Tourism Industry Act 1992 (“TIA”) a tourist guide is a person who provides services to a tourist by guiding them on tours for remuneration. The TIA defines “tour” as sightseeing activities, excursions, shopping, visits to places of interest, and entertainment or other activities normally undertaken by a tourist. As the TIA does not define the exact type of service which may constitute a tourist guide, it would be a good idea to check with the Ministry of Tourism and Culture (“MOTAC”) or speak to your lawyer to make sure you are following the laws before providing any services. If you are considered to be a tourist guide, you are required to be licensed under Malaysian law.
Here are some examples of when you would be considered to be acting as tourist guide:
- I bring a guest around Malaysia to visit the various museums and galleries while providing commentary about the places along the way;
- the guest signs up for a paid Experience, I meet him in Batu Caves and bring him to various caves and eating places while providing information and commentary about the place; and/or
- I take a paying guest on a hike through the National Park during which I provide detailed explanation of the flora and fauna there.
Here are some examples of where the laws are less clear whether you will be regulated:
- I walk a guest through the neighbourhood where I was born and raised, we meet my local friends and then we have a meal together in my favourite local restaurant. I focus on showing people what it’s like to live in my area and introducing them to great locals. (Note: However, if you also intend to explain the history of local tourist attractions or buildings of architectural or historical merit, or do anything which a tourist guide would normally do, the laws will likely apply and you are likely to be considered a tourist guide); or
- I take someone to yoga and fitness classes, and then we run together by the river or around the city centre. (Note: However, if you also provide explanations about the historical buildings or landmarks you come across during your run, or do anything which a tourist guide would normally do, the laws will likely apply and you are likely to be considered a tourist guide.)
You may also be considered a tour operator if you, amongst other things, run a business arranging for sale or commission any transport, accommodation, tour services or any other incidental services for tourists within or outside Malaysia. For instance, if you are providing an Experience that would involve a “package” of services, e.g. wine tasting tour at several wineries, where you provide transportation in between venues, this type of an Experience would be likely to be considered as a tour and the provision of this tour would result in you triggering the licensing requirements for a “tour operating business”.
If I am considered to be a Tourist Guide or Tour Operator, do I need to get a licence?
Yes. The TIA 1992 requires persons who are providing actual tour services to be licensed with MOTAC. The relevant license would be the tour operating business license and in some instances, you would also need to personally obtain the license as a tourist guide. This would largely depend on the type of Experience you are offering. Please refer above for more explanation.
For the tourism guide license, the requirements would include passing an exam mandated by MOTAC to be a certified tour guide. Upon passing the exam, you will be required to fill out an application form as set out on the MOTAC’s website together with a RM10 processing fee and, on approval, the applicant is required to pay a RM50 license fee. According to MOTAC’s client charter, they aim to complete this application process within 5 days if done manually, and 3 days if done electronically. Being licensed also requires you to adhere to certain requirements such as dress code requirements, compliance with the applicable code of ethics and specific prohibitions against touting and soliciting commission from any points of interest, and continuous training requirements as prescribed under the TIA 1992.
To apply for a tour operating business license, you would need to fill up an application form, Form 1 - Application for Licence to Carry on or Operate a Tour Operating Business and Travel Agency Business found here and submit it together with a processing fee of RM100.00 to MOTAC. In addition, the documents stated in the application checklist must also be submitted. These include documents regarding the company’s profile, company registration documents. Under its client’s charter, MOTAC aims to complete this process within 20 business days. You will then have an added obligation to incorporate a company in Malaysia, ensure that it meets the foreign equity restrictions applicable to a tour operating business agency and comply with the license conditions of a tour operating business found in MOTAC’s website by clicking here. Please also note that the foregoing guide is based on information from MOTAC and the law as of 1 January 2018 only.
If you are unsure as to whether your Experience requires you to be licensed with MOTAC, it would be a good idea to reach out to MOTAC or speak to your lawyer to make sure you are following the laws.
Note that MOTAC carries out active enforcement against unlicensed tourist guides, especially in areas around popular tourist attractions and that you may attract criminal liability in the form of financial penalties or imprisonment, or both, for being a tourist guide or a tour operator without the requisite licence.
Please note that if you would in fact require a tour operating business license but are not properly licensed, you are also not permitted to use the words "tourism", "tour", "travel", "tourist agency", "travel agent" or "tour operator" in relation to your business.
Is there anything else I should think about?
If your Experience involves entering nature reserve, i.e. walking tours, cycling tours, motorbike or other vehicle tours of national parks or nature reserves etc., entering national parks would generally not require any permits. However, please note that entering any permanent reserved forests in Malaysia would require an entry permit issued by the State forestry department. The entry permit to permanent reserved forests only allows persons named in the permit to enter for the period stated in the permit. The costs of obtaining these entry permits and the method to obtain them differ from State to State. You are also required to observe any safety requirements or restrictions imposed on certain activities depending on the local authority or the State in which you carry out your Experience.
In addition, if your experience involves outdoor activities (such as hiking, sailing, mountain biking, kayaking, white-water rafting etc.), you will also be required to observe any safety requirements or restrictions imposed on certain activities depending on the local authority or the State in which you carry out your Experience.
It would be a good idea to get in touch with your local or State authority to find out what these requirements or restrictions are depending on your specific activity.
If your experience will involve other activities (for example, transportation or serving or providing alcohol or food), please take a look at our other information sections to work out if any other rules might apply to your activity.
*Airbnb is not responsible for the reliability or correctness of the information contained in any links to third party sites (including any links to legislation and regulations).
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