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Thai tour agents call for more time to clear up ‘zero-dollar’ tours

BANGKOK: Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) has asked the government for more time to allow tour operators to come to terms with the crackdown on zero-dollar tours.

Chinese, tourism, economics,


TTR Weekly

Wednesday 21 September 2016, 02:23PM


Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) has asked the government for more time to allow tour operators to come to terms with the crackdown on zero-dollar tours.
Association of Thai Travel Agents (ATTA) has asked the government for more time to allow tour operators to come to terms with the crackdown on zero-dollar tours.

Speaking at a conference focusing on zero dollars tourism, last week, ATTA Vice President Somchai Chomraka said the association agreed with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ policy, but asked for more clarity on regulations.

ATTA claims that only a few of its members are guilty of organising tours that could be defined as zero-dollar tourism, but many of its members benefit from the free use of buses and commuter vans owned by gem stores and have reaped handsome profits from shopping commissions in the past.

The practice has been rife for decades across all tourist markets, not just Chinese tour groups. It originated in the 1970s when European inbound travel agencies extracted massive commissions from shops, restaurants, attractions and boat companies. Gems stores provided transport on condition the groups visited their shops during sightseeing trips. Tour leaders, guides and even company directors benefited from golden handshakes, gifts including gold and cars and annual cash bonuses based on the sales volume generated by their clients in partner shops.

“Although the so-called zero-dollar tour has impacted on the country’s tourism for decades, “ the ATTA vice president said, “tour operators, airlines, hotels and related tourism operators are asking for more clarity on the crackdown and the regulations…what are they? “We need to know how tour operators should conduct themselves so they do not violate the law?”

He added: “We also require more time to adjust our business plans and marketing strategies to run business and protect a potential loss of business.”

ATTA secretary, Adith Chairattananon, said the ministry crackdown would cause a decline of 50% to 70% in travellers using tour operators this month.

This suggests the problem of zero-dollar or commission tours is far more widespread than even the government imagined. A drop of 50% to 70% in tourists using travel agencies would represent a loss of 150,000 travellers a month.

He warned there would be flight cancellations from Chinese airlines like Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines of around 20% to 30% this month. Plans to open services from secondary cities such as Wuhan, Changsha and Shantou to Thailand would be cancelled as bookings declined.

Meanwhile, hotel booking cancellation, particularly in Bangkok and Pattaya focusing on Chinese tour groups, would decline by 50% this month.

“The state should discuss and brainstorm with the private sector to reach an agreement on the clampdown policy…concrete official guidelines should be provided to tourism operators so they know how to conduct their business with partners,” the ATTA secretary claimed.

BIS

He stressed: “We agree with the crackdown, but need more time and an opportunity to take action and adjust strategy following the state policy.”

The fallacy is that Ministry of Tourism and Sports believes the commissions game only applies to the Chinese market. It is convenient to blame Chinese companies for all the tourism ills that blight Thailand’s tourism, but a full investigation would show the same principles also apply in other markets that involve travel companies.

Even in its mildest form, commission driven shop visits raise the cost of shopping for consumers by at least 30%.

Last year, ATTA identified three requirements for members handling tours from China to adopt in order to improve market quality.

They were: Do not abandon travellers on a tour to third parties; a Thai tour guide must be on the tour bus at all times; and ensure there are no threats or attempts to force tourists to buy products.

There are 350 ATTA members handling Chinese tourists.

In 2015, ATTA agents handled 3,033,950 Chinese travellers up 125.42% from 1,345,898 visits in 2014.

 

Read original story here.

 

 

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Joe12 | 23 September 2016 - 19:39:01

Kurt...I have no idea what it is you are talking about. 

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Kurt | 23 September 2016 - 17:41:07

Even a trip to that Rose garden ( elephants and so), to Bridge of River Kwai, to Floating Market north of BKK, you all can book and pay them in Europe, and you get your vouchers before departing from Europe to BKK. 
And it is all much cheaper than when you book in Thailand!

The Europe travel agent gets commission, the thai side gets commission. Every body happy.
Do you realize how many in this travel industry make money, and get their piece of the cake?

That whole thai zero dollar crocodile tear travel industry thing is a big joke. 

It is a thinking complete out of the decennia international travel booking scene.

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Kurt | 23 September 2016 - 16:46:33

Of course they called up for more time to clear up.
They are completely bewildered about this hotel/tour thing.

Fact(they must know): In Europe you can go to a local travel agent were they have of every country travel/hotel/tour glossy booklets
You can pick your destination. In your own country you pay flights, thai hotels, thai airport transfers, thai tours in advance ( including travel- and cancelation insurances)
Such a package, paid in your own country is much cheaper than the same in Thailand. 

How does it works? Well, a german or any other european travel agent have their representatives in Thailand. You can see them daily in their uniforms, legally working.

European travel agents book/ block a package of seat in aircrafts, block and pay a number of hotel rooms in thai hotels for a whole season. Providing thai hotels an granted income.
Because of this block/pay system European travel agents get the thai hotel rooms cheap, but the thai hotels have a granted income in advance, nevermind or the guests are coming or not ic case of unrest as Thailand has now long time crime wise.

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Joe12 | 21 September 2016 - 21:17:04

Excellent well reasoned comments to which I agree.

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eric dekegel | 21 September 2016 - 18:14:34

The thai guides are not paid by the agent to get around with the chinese and rely 100% on commission, they try to sale on the bus additional tours and shows to make there living. At the othser side chinese are no beach tourists,they like trips,shows,eating and shopping.But its time to clean up some of the agencies who sometimes have no room yet when the chinese is boarding his flight!They hire thai people to drive around all day to find rooms for them thats the real situation and they again get 100 baht/room they find.Hard to finish these gangs.There is a minimum of money comming to Thailand. I see how they treat them,just like a group of buffalos, its a shame, I feel many times sorry for them even that you have to put the lines with them, there are limits.Some groups are 1 family and they not inform them they will sleep in 2 different hotels untill the bus arrives at the first hotel,this is giving endless discussions.

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yvonne | 21 September 2016 - 16:40:58

This practice of schlepping Tourists to Commission shops and included in Tours offered, has to be stopped. Tourists are sick and tired of their time wasted and which they are PAYING for and the harassment to buy during these stops. If they WANT TO shop for gold, or Jewellery or whatever,  they want to do so at leisure and in their OWN TIME that they are NOT paying for.

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Asterix | 21 September 2016 - 15:23:34

The main problem that must be fixed, the sooner the better, is about tour companies owned and managed by foreigners (Chinese, Korean, Russian, European, etc…) via Thai nominees to flout the Thai Administration.

Travel packages are pre-sold to tourists in which travel payments are done before departures to foreign accounts (PayPal, etc…) and in Thailand, customers are paying through electronic channels to home countries or in cash to avoid taxes in Thailand.

In fact, there is not so much money which is going for the local Thai folks as too many people might think.

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