Tourism Ministry reinstates guarantee for outbound tour operators

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

Thai travellers faced significant setbacks after some licenced outbound tour operators left them stranded despite purchasing premium packages. In response, the Tourism and Sports Ministry is now seeking enhanced consumer protection measures.

The Tourism Department, under the ministry’s supervision, plans to reinstate the guarantee amount for licenced outbound tour companies to 200,000 baht next year. This comes after a pandemic-era reduction of the fee by 70%, stated Jaturon Phakdeewanit, the department’s director-general.

This action follows a notable fraud case involving a registered company named KAF Journey. Nine customers lodged a complaint in May, prompting the department to revoke the company’s licence and ban its committees from running a tour company for five years under the Tourism Business and Tourist Guide Act.

Losses from this single case, primarily involving tour packages to Japan and Europe, are estimated at over 8 million baht, according to the Ministry.

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With the company’s 60,000 baht guarantee deposit falling short of covering the damages, the department assisted affected consumers in filing complaints with the Office of the Consumer Protection Board. The process to seize assets and provide full compensation may extend over several years.

During the pandemic, the guarantee amount was reduced from 200,000 baht to 60,000 baht to alleviate the impact on outbound tour operators. Inbound and domestic tour operators also saw reductions from 100,000 baht to 30,000 baht, and from 50,000 baht to 15,000 baht, respectively.

“This case should not affect tourist confidence as there are very few severe cases like this among 13,000 licenced tour companies.”

Caution advised

Jaturon advised customers to research companies’ backgrounds and reviews before making travel arrangements.

Charoen Wangananont, President of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), acknowledged that this case was one of the most significant fraud incidents in the outbound tour industry this year. He noted that although the implicated company had once been a TTAA member, it was not associated with the organisation at the time of the fraud.

Charoen suggested that while this case might slightly impact tourist confidence, it would not substantially affect the overall demand for tour companies. These businesses typically cater to specific groups, such as families or corporate travellers, who make up the majority of their clientele.

Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, Vice-President of TTAA, commented that fraud is pervasive across all economic sectors, not just tourism, especially during economic downturns.

“With travel expenses 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels, consumers should beware of tour packages with unreasonable prices.”

He recommended that travellers verify a tour company’s licence number, tax payment records, and history of operations. Any company receiving income through an individual rather than a corporate bank account should raise red flags for consumers, reported Bangkok Post.

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Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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