Introduction to Tourism & Hospitality Law

By Marlysa Razak and Chang Wai Leng

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry and Malaysia generated a huge sum of income from tourism. According to the New Straits Times, in the year 2018, tourism generated an income of approximately RM84.1 billion to the Malaysian economy. The industry covers areas such as, inter alia, transportation, accommodation, money exchange, immigration and customs, levy and taxes. 

The tourism and hospitality industry represents a broad range of undertakings, including accommodations, restaurants, tourism destinations and attractions, airlines and other transportation. 

Like any other industries, tourism has its peculiar regulations and sets of rules. The general laws such as contract and tort apply to the tourism industry, while specific laws such as Tourism Industry Act 1992 , Civil Aviation Act 1969 and its rules and regulations as well as the Innkeepers Act 1952 specifically govern the industry in Malaysia.

Tourism Law is a unique area of law which involves general government regulations and specific travel and hospitality industry rules. According to the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the purpose of Tourism Law is to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the development and management of tourism, preservation of cultural traditions, natural resources and facilitate the involvement of the private sector & local communities in tourism development activities. 

Tourism Law also reflects not only the rights of international and local tourists, but also the legal responsibilities of inbound-outbound tour operators, travel agents and other significant players in this industry. The main concern in Tourism Law is to provide a fair and equitable environment for travel consumers and organisations. For instance, Tourism Law comes into play when it involves goods and services rendered and situations where laws are there to ensure restaurants are serving food which are safe to consume and premises which are free from danger. 

Tourism Law also encompasses laws in movement of people and goods across the World. This includes movements by air, sea, rail and road where each mode of transportation applies different sets of rules and international conventions. 

Furthermore, Tourism Law also plays an important role in cases or situations involving terrorism, natural disasters, protests, and disease break-outs where visitors and tourists should be aware of their rights and the safety precaution measures that should or could be taken at the time. Tourism Law provides guides and imposes responsibilities and liabilities to the players in the industry to ensure the safety and the well-being of any tourists or visitors under their care in cases which are out of their control as listed above.

Travel Law are laws which regulate both business and individual behaviour in the travel industry, while International Travel Law refers to ordinances, rules, treaties and agreements which are used to regulate international travel industry. In addition, laws such as common law, contract law, employment law, trust law and tort law govern the international travel law.

Hospitality industry is an industry which involves food service, travel, and lodging industries. Hospitality Law is introduced to regulate hotels, restaurants, bars, country clubs and other public accommodations, so as to provide safety measures within the law to protect the customers.

For example, every restaurant must abide by the food safety and regulations to ensure purity of food being supplied to customers. Restaurants must practice safe food handling and violation can lead to legal suit being initiated or fine being imposed.

On lodging industry, the hotel management has the responsibility to ensure that its buildings are safe to be lived in and used. For example, Section 28 of the Fire Services Act 1988 states that every designated premise including hotels shall require a fire certificate which are to be renewed annually. Section 29 of the Fire Services Act 1988 further states that Fire and Rescue Department shall carry out an annual inspection on the premises to certify that the premises comply with the life safety, fire prevention, fire protection and fire-fighting requirements. For example, the hotel management must ensure that the sign “KELUAR” (Exit) can indicate the escape route. This may inadvertently help to improve the reputation of business as the customers can rest easy by knowing that the place is safe in the event fire breaks out.

Furthermore, safety and security aspects play a very vital role in the hospitality industry. Hotel management shall at all times ensure no uninvited guest in the premise of the hotel and provide adequate measure of protection to their guests from any criminal harm such as robbery and theft of personal belongings arising from their own negligence. On another aspect, it is essential for the hotel management to educate their staffs to avoid or prevent any discrimination made against any guests based on their race and religion. Receptionist and front desk staff shall welcome every guest with open arms because customer service is important in providing a positive image of the hotel to the guests. Providing a safe and crime free staying environment can lead to guest satisfaction resulting in improvement of rapport and good will of the hotel.


Tourism and hospitality industry linked closely with laws and regulations. It helps to ensure both tourists and industry operators come within a fair and equitable environment. It is also very important for industry operators to have the knowledge of it so that they can prevent legal suit being initiated or fine being imposed on them.

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