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Touts around Kuala Lumpur City Centre pester tourists to have paid shots taken

Dec 07, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – It is certainly one for the album: a tourist having a photograph taken in front of the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. In terms of a scenic shot, the 88-storey skyscrapers are undoubtedly among the most “valued” in the country.

This, however, has led to many individuals preying on tourists on the grounds below. They are persistent in wanting to take photographs for the tourists.

Armed with mobile phones, gimbals and lighting devices, these individuals would pester tourists to have their shots taken, offering between RM5 and RM20 (between S$1.50 and S$6) a photograph.

After getting the go-ahead, they would snap away and then transfer the photos via WhatsApp and other forms of social media to the tourist concerned – and then make their demand for payment.

But most of the time, it would not just be for that particular photo the tourist requested. Other angles were also sent over so that more payment could be demanded.

In most cases, if one did not give in to their demands, these photograph touts would sneak into the background to try to ruin the snapshots taken by the tourists themselves.

These photographers usually gather in popular spots around the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC), making sure no one gets away from their “dragnet”.

Some also roam around, pouncing on tourists taking selfies.

“Come and try first. We can take your picture. You can pay later,” said one of the individuals to a reporter from The Star, who was disguised as a tourist at the KLCC area.

The person offered to accept payment in cash or through online transfer.

A local tourist’s family outing turned sour after being harassed by these photographers.

“We did not agree, but they were adamant in wanting to take photos for us. Eventually, they left us alone, but whenever we tried to take our own pictures, they would come into the background to ruin our shots,” said the tourist, who wanted to be known only as Cheng.

Another visitor, Ms Siti Hasniza, said she had to pay up to RM100 for five pictures, despite agreeing only for one photo to be taken.

“At first, they said the charge was RM10 per picture. Later, they said that due to some lighting adjustments that needed to be made, it was RM20 per picture.

“But despite saying we just wanted one picture, the person transferred five over and demanded full payment,” she said.

Tourist M.J. Lee said he was taking selfies with the Petronas Twin Towers in the background when he was approached.

“I was offered RM10 for three pictures and agreed,” he said.

However, he said another guy came up and took pictures of him and then offered them for a price, which he declined.

Further checks outside the Petronas towers over the weekend found at least 15 of these photographers lingering behind the metal barricades from 2pm to 7.30pm.

Some of them said they were aware of the negative feedback about their activities.

“We just want to earn a living and help tourists take nice photos. Not all of us are out to cheat tourists,” one of them told The Star.

One of the photographers, who identified himself as Mr Maha, said buying pictures in bulk would be cheaper.

“For one photo, I charge RM5; but for three, it is RM10. The rates are adjusted accordingly,” he said, adding that he had been doing this as a full-time job since 2015.

“We used to sell phone camera accessories but stopped due to poor business,” he said.

Mr Maha added that they were previously allowed to take pictures closer to the towers but were recently barred.

“We were not allowed into the fountain area after a recent viral video accused us of being touts,” he said.

Meanwhile, several auxiliary police officers interviewed said they first began patrolling the area about three weeks ago.

“We have received many complaints from both locals and tourists on the activities of these photographers. We are keeping a close eye on them,” said an officer.

The KLCC management said it was fully aware of the concerns.

“We adopt a proactive approach through ongoing collaboration with the authorities, especially the police, to ensure the issue is addressed,” it added.

It said its team had been monitoring the issue actively.

“Together with the local authorities, we will work hand in hand to further mitigate this issue,” it said.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall could not be reached for comment. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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