Tour firms face fee hike amid fraud fear
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Tour firms face fee hike amid fraud fear

People look for bargains on travel packages at a travel fair held at Bitec. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)
People look for bargains on travel packages at a travel fair held at Bitec. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

After Thai travellers were left stranded by outbound tour operators despite choosing licensed companies selling premium packages, the Tourism and Sports Ministry plans to seek consumer protection solutions.

The Tourism Department, which is supervised by the ministry, is considering increasing the guarantee amount for licensed outbound tour companies back to 200,000 baht next year, after reducing the fee by 70% during the pandemic, said Jaturon Phakdeewanit, director-general of the department.

The move is in response to a recent fraud case with a registered company named KAF Journey, after nine customers filed a complaint at the department in May. Mr Jaturon said the department revoked the company's licence and banned its committees from operating a tour company for five years, based on the Tourism Business and Tourist Guide Act.

According to the ministry, losses from this single case are estimated at more than 8 million baht, from abandoned tour packages to Japan and Europe.

As the guarantee amount of 60,000 baht the company deposited with the department was insufficient to cover the damage, the department helped consumers file a complaint with the Office of the Consumer Protection Board, which may take years to seize assets and offer full compensation.

During the pandemic, the department sought to ease the impact for outbound tour operators by reducing the guarantee amount from 200,000 baht to 60,000 baht.

Inbound and domestic tour operators received a 70% reduction from 100,000 baht to 30,000 baht, and 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 licensed tour companies," said Mr Jaturon.

He said customers should research companies' histories and reviews before making a decision.

Charoen Wangananont, president of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA), said the recent case was one of the biggest frauds in the outbound tour industry this year.

He said this tour company used to be a TTAA member, selling both wholesale and retail packages, but was not currently part of the association.

Mr Charoen said the case may affect tourist confidence to some extent, but would not impact overall demand for tour companies, which can cater to specific groups, such as families or corporate travellers, which form the majority of clients for the tour business.

Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, vice-president of TTAA, said fraud happens in every sector of the economy, not only tourism, especially as the economy slumps.

Mr Thanapol said with travel expenses 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels, consumers should beware of tour packages with unreasonable prices.

In addition to checking a tour company's licence number, travellers should also look for companies' tax payment records and their history of operations.

Any company that receives income through an individual bank account instead of a corporate one should make consumers suspicious, he said.

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