Tourism Department mulls minimum prices for tour packages
The Tourism Department is planning to set minimum prices for outbound tour packages to deal with the growing price war that could eventually lower service quality.
Taweesak Wanichcharoen, director-general of the department, said minimum prices for outbound services is allowed under the Tourism Business and Guide Act 2008, but it has not been enforced seriously.
He said the department is considering standardising the business with minimum prices set for each region, such as Europe, America and Asia. However, it is considering excluding China as the market is huge and need a ranges of tour prices.
Mr Taweesak held discussions with travel associations including the Thai Travel Agents Association to conduct research before setting up minimum prices of tour packages.
The move aims to boost confidence among travellers when buying tour packages, preventing them from being cheated by operators offering low-price tours.
In recent years, there were several notorious cases of operators offering low-priced tour programmes overseas, but the trips never happened, leaving customers stranded at the airport.
Outbound tourism has been growing strongly, with 10 million Thais going overseas for trips last year, up from 3.9 million a decade ago.
In the first six months this year, 6.78 million Thais travelled abroad, up 10.8% from the same period of last year.
Mr Taweesak said a series of standard prices for each market will be set at next month's meeting of the Board of Tourism Business, chaired by permanent secretary for tourism Chote Trachu.
He said the department is also considering setting minimum prices for domestic tour packages.
Meanwhile, the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta) reported foreign arrivals using services of Atta members this year as of Aug 20 has plunged by 9.3% to 3.54 million.
The decrease was seen in nearly all markets, including China, which was down 11.3% to 2.04 million, while Britain tallied 46,088 (-28.5%), Hong Kong 33,179 (-20.2%), South Korea 142,564 (-13.6%) and Japan 107,613 (-8.3%).
Meanwhile, other markets rose, such as Taiwan, with 70,972 arrivals (+20.7%), while France had 36,540 (+6.5%) and India 184,920 (+5.6%).
Atta president Vichit Prakobgosol said the association would wait to see whether the extension of the 2,000-baht visa on arrival fee waiver to next April would help boost tourism market, especially from China.
If the market does not improve much, he said Atta might push for the government to offer free visas for visitors from China and India.
"The free visa policy will allow tourists to complete the process from their hometown, taking less time than the VOA, which they have to do at Thai airports," Mr Vichit said.