Tourism centre deluged with complaints

Tourism centre deluged with complaints

A passenger is seen at Don Mueang on March 13, 2020 as the airport is quiet after countries limit travel restrictions. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
A passenger is seen at Don Mueang on March 13, 2020 as the airport is quiet after countries limit travel restrictions. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

More than 2,000 tourists have filed complaints against tour operators as cancellations mount from the coronavirus, while the Tourism Department acknowledged it will be hard to get a full refund at this hour.

Concerns about the outbreak have stopped people from travelling, resulting in much lower air travel demand during the past two months, particularly last week when Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air and Bangkok Airways announced they were stopping all international routes temporarily. THAI Smile suspended all international routes on Monday.

Taweesak Wanichcharoen, director-general of the Tourism Department, said consumers who are having difficulty getting refunds from tour operators can contact its complaint centre.

Open for less than one month, the high number of cases registered at the centre indicates several conflicts between consumers and tour operators. The latter have their own issues with airlines and refunds, and those are likely to remain prolonged.

He said an influx of complaints came after the government postponed Songkran holidays, which is a favourite period for Thais to travel.

The department is working for each conflict to reach an acceptable solution and avoid lawsuits. It seeks cooperation from the Transport Ministry to devise more effective solutions.

However, Mr 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," he said.

In addition, the department plans to propose to the cabinet today approval of aid measures for tour operators including the return of registration deposits to all companies that have licences with the department.

Some 14,000 tour companies can expect to receive 70% of their deposits by April after cabinet approval and the move is officially announced in the Royal Gazette.

Mr Taweesak said the department plans to spend at least 1 billion baht from the total budget of 1.4 billion. The main condition is after the situation improves, tour operators should 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.

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