Outbound tour company said to defraud travellers
COMPLAINTS to police about a Yangon Region travel company from angry customers have highlighted the weaknesses of the law governing tour companies, industry experts say.
They are demanding action from the government to rectify the problem.
The fraud complaints centre around Tourbox Travel and Tours, in Sanchaung township, a member of the Union of Myanmar Travel Association (UMTA), which had recommended the issuance of a licence from the tourism ministry. Dozens of potential customers had contacted the agency to arrange tours abroad, including to Europe, Japan and Cambodia, but were cheated out of money with no resulting trip.
“Six customers have already complained to the Sanchaung police station, and we reported the cases to the district,” police officer U Thein Win told The Myanmar Times.
“The district allowed us to continue the case but we have not yet received an official letter, which means we cannot actually launch an investigation into the [alleged] fraudster, who at this point may have already run away,” he added.
Daw Sabei Aung, managing director of Nature Dream Travels & Tours, told The Myanmar Times, “This shows the weakness of the tourism law. We have yet to see any action from the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. These matters should be resolved before the police are involved in order to protect our industry’s reputation,” she said, adding that the ministry should set up a complaints mechanism.
“Current ministry procedures are too long and complicated. An accused fraudster can disappear while the documents are still being filed,” she said.
“Someone should have known that there was something not quite right,” she added.
Under existing law, unlicensed travel operators can be imprisoned for up to three years, fined K50,000 (US$42), or both, said U Myo Win Nyunt, director of the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism.
He said UMTA should first negotiate with the company and then inform the ministry if the problem cannot be resolved. The ministry can add the company’s name to a blacklist and revoke its licence.
“No licence was granted to Tourbox for outbound tourism, so we can take action under the law after investigating,” he said.
Tourbox joined UMTA in April, and the association had supported the company’s application for a licence, said UMTA chair U Thet Lwin Toh. “I don’t know if the ministry had granted the licence or not, but every outbound tour company has had to have an outbound licence since March, according to the ministry directive,” he said. “We invited the company to negotiate with us, but it appears the owner has already left the country.”
Another potential source of fraud was posed by online tour companies. “We have no law that protects people from fraud by foreign companies. Such a law is needed for our protection,” U Thet Lwin Toh said.
Daw Hla Darli Khin, managing director of Tour De Myanmar, warned customers to be careful about who they deal with.
“If the price looks too cheap, something could be wrong. Customers should check the company’s background before they pay,” she said.
More than 20 people complained to police after Tourbox offered a Cambodia-Bangkok trip for US$529 and a Japan package for $2000 on July 20.