The probe into some big travel agents who were Chinese nominees will be launched soon, said Sutham Dechdi, director of the departmentʼs Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration.
The bureau has sent the names of four illegal tour agents whose licences were suspended to the Revenue Department for an investigation of their tax payments.
The move is part of department efforts to resolve the problem of zero-dollar tours and their impact on Chinese tourists who are forced to buy goods at higher prices or left abandoned by illegal guides.
Tourism and Sports Minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul is seriously concerned and has assigned the Tourism Department to oversee tour companies and agents.
It will work closely with the Department of Special Investigation and the Commerce Ministry.
Last year, tourists lodged 300 complaints with the department that they were cheated and forced to buy expensive goods. Most of these tourists were from China.
Sometimes they were left on the roadside if they refused to join optional tours arranged by tour agents.
Apart from Bangkok, other main destinations such as Pattaya and Phuket have a high number of nominee travel agents and tourist fraud cases.
“Our obstacle is we have only a limited number of staff nationwide. In Bangkok, we have only five or six staff to check and supervise tour agents,” Mr Sutham said.
He said he would try to inspect at least one case upcountry per month.
“A lot of money from tourism is in the hands of only some operators, mainly nominee tour companies,” Mr Sutham said.
“Zero-dollar tours have dragged down Thai tourism. We must crack down on nominee operators.”
The department yesterday (Sept 14) issued a ruling to suspend the licence of a tour agent in Bangkokʼs Mengjai area for six months after finding it illegally employed unlicensed Chinese tour guides and tricked tourists into buying optional tours.
Another 25 tour agents are also being investigated, while 24 illegal tour guides have been arrested.
Tour agents can be banned from operating for five years, in accordance with Section 46 of the Tourism Business Act.
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