Minimum tour package prices set

Rules will apply to inbound and outbound operators starting in 2020

More Thais are taking overseas trips and the Tourism Department wants to root out substandard operators by enforcing minimum prices. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Minimum prices for tour packages to discourage price wars and root out substandard travel operators are scheduled to take effect next year, according to the Tourism Department.

The lowest prices for a 3-day, 2-night outbound tour package will range from 1,600 to 9,000 baht per person depending on the destination and nature of the tour, excluding air tickets, said Taweesak Wanichcharoen, director-general of the department.

Issued under the Tourism Business and Guide Act of 2008, the minimum price initiative was approved by the Tourism Business and Guide Committee on Nov 14, he said.

For inbound tour packages, minimum prices will vary based on the market and operating costs of travel agencies. The minimum charge for a tour from Southeast Asian countries is set at 800 baht per person per night, rising to 1,000 baht for those from other Asian countries and 1,500 baht for those from outside Asia.

Minimum prices for a one-day domestic tour packages will be 300 baht per person, or 600 baht if an overnight stay is included.

Tassanee Kiatkamchornchai, honorary secretary-general of the Thai Travel Agents Association, said the move could help raise the standard of the travel industry but may not ease price wars or prevent malpractice by tour operators.

Some crooked operators offer very cheap tour prices to attract clients and then abandon them, she said.

Ms Tassanee said tourists should consider higher-quality tour packages that enable operators to add value to their services.

The number of Thais taking overseas trips is on the rise. From January to September, 9.85 million Thais took outbound trips, up 10.1% from the same period last year, according to the Immigration Bureau.

Vichit Prakobgosol, president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents (Atta), supports the minimum price rule, saying it would assure foreign travellers of quality and reasonable tourism services in Thailand.

Standardising the prices for tour packages is the first step in dealing with zero-dollar tours that have damaged Thai tourism, Mr Vichit said.

The number of tourists traveling with Atta members is down 4.2% this year, with visits as of Nov 20 totalling 4.78 million.

Arrivals from China were down by 3.35% to 2.76 million. Also down were Vietnam to 300,168 (-1.8), South Korea at 193,708 (-10.5%) and Japan at 156,865 (-4.3%). However, Indian visitor numbers rose 5.1% to 252,022.

Phuriwat Limthavornrat, president of the Association of Domestic Travel, said domestic tourism is the least affected by scammers. However, standardising prices will help tourists verify and avoid being cheated by illegal tour agents who offer prices below minimum rates. In addition, it will promote operators who provide quality tourism products.