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Security boost hits tour firms, told to file reports daily

PHUKET: Thailand’s tour companies will need to issue daily job orders for every tourist they handle, according to a Department of Tourism directive.

By TTR Weekly

Saturday 26 December 2015, 01:00PM

A tourist readies to board a speedboat at Phuket’s Rassada Pier ahead of a day tour to Phi Phi island. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

A tourist readies to board a speedboat at Phuket’s Rassada Pier ahead of a day tour to Phi Phi island. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

The job-order requirement is undergoing a trial run despite travel agency criticism that it is time consuming, repetitive and requires additional staff to fill out forms manually that the ministry could source automatically from a database link.

But the Department of Tourism’s Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration is convinced that job orders will prevent scams and give tourists additional security.

At present travel firms are being asked to voluntarily join the job-order programme, but after an evaluation period and possibly some fine tuning it will become an obligatory requirement for all companies.

The job order is accessible online via the Department of Tourism website

Officials at the department say the scheme will improve security for tourists in case of emergencies, accidents, natural disasters or service complaints. They will be traceable which will improve security, but ultimately it gives the department a much clearer picture of the most productive tour companies.

The job order requirement also extends to tour guides who are required to carry with them their job orders at all times so they can be presented for official verification in case of problems or complaints.

Travel firms told TTR Weekly that they are concerned that they will be forced to invest in additional staff to complete the forms. They also questioned whether the department has enough qualified staff, or the resources, to read literally thousands of job orders daily or follow-up if there was a problem.

“Filling out blanks on a form does not by itself guarantee a problem will be solved, or that security has miraculously improved… it requires input and verification and that might not be forthcoming… it could degenerate into paper pushing – without any tangible results, or benefits for tourists, as well as considerable work for tour company staff,” a leading tour operator told TTR Weekly.

To simplify the verification process, the department says the job order will be available for online retrieval by authorities. Then the authorities can easily locate tour groups to give notification and advice.

The job order includes essential information such as the registration numbers of the travel agency and tour guide, and the dates, locations and nationalities of the tour group. The agencies must submit the order online one day before the tour date.

According to the regulations guides are required to present a full job order upon request by officials at all times. They are also subject to an evaluation on service standards, grooming, manners, social conduct and health.

Department of Tourism Acting General Director Wannasiri Morakul said that the regulation is in line with the government’s policy to tighten security for tourists and improve the quality of tour guide services.

“The job order will have value in the case of an accident as the tourism department will be able check details to know the number of tourists travelled on programmes for each location and whether the company has insurance or not.”

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Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration Director Sutham Dechdi told TTR Weekly that the scheme is on a trial process for three months and travel companies are encouraged to register.

“We have to wait and see how travel agencies react before enforcing the measure by law… We have sent letters to tour companies a few day ago and so far there are only 90 companies that have registered on the website out of 8,000 companies.

“Many companies think it is a burden for them but it will be an advantage as we can collect tourism data… the informed data will help us to access tourism trends such as where tourists go, which nationalities are top for certain provinces or destinations.

“Normally tour guides have to carry a job order, but we are also asking companies to send details to the department as well.”

Discussions are underway with the Association of Thai Travel Agents, Thai-Chinese Tourism Alliance Association and major tour operators, he said.

Destination Asia (Thailand) Managing Director Pornthip Hirunkate, who is also a Tourism Council of Thailand vice president, said that the company is already registering job orders.

“However, the system is not user-friendly, or easy to fill out… We have to log in on the department website every day and fill in information… It is (an ) increase (in) the workload for our staff and takes considerable time.”

She suggested: “It would be better if we can attach our excel file to the department job order… (as) travel companies use technology to manage customer information… It would be easier if we could draw the details from the company’s database or crew order and send this to the department instead of filling in blanks on a form on the website daily, which is repetitive.”

The department believes the job-order will help to identify illegal tour companies and force compliance.

Association of Thai Travel Agents President Charoen Wangananont said that the project has received a mixed response from the association members.

“We encourages them to follow the regulation… It will benefit in the long-run… However, we need to think what is the core objective of the Tourism Department.”

“Each company has its own policy and strategy… The job order regulation will not provide blanket security for all tourists as only 17% to 18% of international travellers travel through travel companies anyhow.”

Read original story here.



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