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Tourism call centre flooded with complaints over cancellations

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport lies nearly empty - CNA

Thailand’s Tourism Department and its recently opened complaint centre are being flooded with complaints from would-be tourists about cancellations due to the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. More than 2000 have filed complaints, and the department says refunds will be difficult.

The outbreak has bashed global travel, resulting in Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Bangkok Airways, among others, temporarily stopping all international routes. Thai Smile suspended all international routes yesterday.

Taweesak Wanichcharoen, director-general of the Tourism Department, says passengers and travellers who are having difficulty getting refunds from tour operators can contact the complaint centre. He says the high number of cases registered at the centre, open for less than a month, indicates several conflicts between consumers and tour operators, who have their own issues with airlines and refunds, which are likely to to be prolonged. He says the influx of complaints began after the government postponed the Songkran holidays, a traditional period for Thais to travel.

The department is working on a case-by-case basis to reach acceptable solutions and avoid lawsuits. It seeks cooperation from the Transport Ministry to devise more effective solutions. Taweesak acknowledged it will be rare for tourists to receive a full refund.

“With tourism hit hard by the coronavirus, we need to revise refund regulations to avoid repeating this problem in the future.”

The department plans to propose to the cabinet today approval of aid for tour operators, including the return of registration deposits to all licensed companies. About 14,000 tour companies can expect to receive 70% of their deposits by April if the cabinet approves the move and it’s officially announced in the Royal Gazette.

Taweesak says the department plans to spend at least a billion baht from the total budget of 1.4 billion. The caveat is that once the situation improves, tour operators must return the deposit to the department.

There are four types of deposits, ranging from 200,000 baht for outbound tourism, 100,000 baht for inbound tourism, 50,000 baht for domestic tourism and 10,000 baht for tourism in specific areas.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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