Unsettled disputes between tour operators and airlines may exacerbate the tourism situation in Thailand by forcing outbound wholesalers to exit the market, with more layoffs.
The global coronavirus pandemic has created significant impacts to global tourism as the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has predicted a contraction of international arrivals by 1-3% with an estimated loss of US$30-50 billion in receipts, a sharp reversal from the previous prediction of 3-4% growth this year. A dispute between airlines and tour operators regarding refund policy is triggering more serious financial problems for tour operators in Thailand, particularly wholesalers for the outbound market, said Chotechuang Soorangura, head of a committee of the Thai Travel Agents Association (TTAA).
According to the Tourism Business and Guide Act of 2008, if tourists cancel tour packages with tour operators 30 days before the travel date, a full refund is applicable after deductions for related services such as visa fees and flight deposits. For any cancellations made within 15-29 days before the trip, consumers should be refunded 50% of payments. If customers cancel the booking within two weeks of the trip, they cannot get a refund.
Meanwhile, Thanapol Cheewarattanaporn, president of TTAA, said even though the Tourism Department has positioned itself the mediator and is trying to find a solution by using refund regulations, this approach has yet to be effective. He said airlines mostly offer credit shell instead of money, thus making it difficult for tour operators to process refunds to tourists.