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Associations tighten membership requirements

Post date: 2016-01-12

inside no1Travel trade associations in Thailand say they are not allowing travel companies to enlist as members if they cannot show proof that they are registered with the Department of Tourism’s Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration.
They were responding to questions from TTR Weekly on the failure of some travel companies to apply for a license with the bureau. Some travel firms register with Ministry of Commerce so they can trade, but ignore the law that says they must also register with bureau.
Trade associations dealing with travel agents and guides all confirmed they are not accepting membership applications from companies that cannot furnish their license details filed with the DoT.
inside no1Association of Domestic Travel president, Yutthachai Soonthronrattanavate, confirmed to TTR Weekly that all the association’s travel company members are legally registered under the Ministry of Tourism and Sport’s Department of Tourism’s Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration.
“We have around 440 members which are tour operators, car rentals including related tourism services and also hotels and homestays…those who do business as a tour operator are legal and registered under the Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration…however, in the case of members conducting business such as car rental or hotel business they must present other official documents particularly their license number from Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Business Development and hotel registration license.”
To claim the right to vote in the association’s elections of officers, travel firms must have registered with the Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration, he said.
The president added: “Today, the bureau is more active and communicates the status of companies… however, the bureau is short-staffed and this is a problem …once we receive notification that a company has been suspended or deregistered we will inform all our members by email or through LINE.”
Thai Hotels Association president, Surapong Techaruvichit, noted that its 780 hotel members are legally registered under the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Business Development and have hotel registration licenses.
The Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration does not extend its licensing to include hotels, as long as they are not involved in the business of selling tours.
Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration head, Pensirirat Artthaweekul, explained there are four categories for tour operator registration: General (conducting tour programmes in the domestic, inbound and outbound markets); inbound only; domestic only and specialised area. The four categories require payment of registration fees at THB200,000, THB100,000, THB50,000 and THB10,000 respectively.
Their license must be renewed after two years at a cost of THB1,000 .
Online travel agencies that exclusively offer travel services through a website booking platform are not required to register under the current regulations. This loophole irks traditional travel agencies. They claim that whether a company conducts its bookings and travel service business in whole or part online is irrelevant. OTA’s based in Thailand may have Board of Investment privileges but they are registered with the Ministry of Commerce as technology companies not travel or hotel booking agencies.
But the business the online business model is almost identical to the traditional travel agency. They sell travel related services to consumer earning commissions from the supplier. The lines between traditional or online travel agencies is blurred as traditional travel agencies are now conducting sales online through websites or their own booking engines.
Although the Department of Tourism claims its registration bureau provides security and consumer confidence, there is plenty of evidence that travel agencies avoid registering. There is no way for a consumer to clearly identify travel agencies that are in good standing. Even the details and logo displayed by the agencies that claim to be registered could be out-dated.
DoT’s bureau head admitted that there are some travel firms that register under the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Business Development and ignore the bureau entirely. But if they are selling tours they are doing so illegally according to Act of Tourism and Guide Registration 2008 and could face prosecution.
“We have a staff shortage which prevents us from closely monitoring this omission ….to improve the system we started two months ago to send alerts to associations on which travel firms were deregistered or suspended.”
The bureau claims it cannot inform the travelling public that companies have been suspended because they can under the scope of the regulations regain their operational status after a six-month hiatus.
It reduces the effectiveness of the registration procedure as consumers have no way of knowing if they are paying for the services of a company that is under suspension. In most cases a traveller would prefer not to do business with a company that has to address operational deficiencies to regain its legal status.
“In case of a revoked license we can announce that to the public…and to increase tourist safety measures the bureau plans to send the list of suspended and revoked licenses to a wider audience including embassies in addition to travel associations,” she said.
The lack of updates to travel consumers on the status of travel firms in Thailand could lead to them being the victims of fraud and scams. TTR Weekly believes embassies and travel associations, as well as the DoT bear a responsibility to travellers to alert them on vital information regarding the status of companies they are contracting for tour arrangements.
Regarding to crackdown on travel company nominee issue, she said the bureau is working with the Ministry of Commerce’s Department of Business Development and Ministry of Justice’s Department of Special Investigation to closely monitor this issue.
“Travel companies at tourist destinations particularly Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya and Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan are a priority for us to monitor….Russian and South Koreans are the major culprits guilty of using nominees ….we need to clampdown on this,” she said.
There are over 10,000 travel companies registered in the bureau system, according to the bureau head.

Sourced: ttrweekly.com

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