A plan to issue licences to tour companies to organise overseas trips has been criticised for being too restrictive, with more than 100 registered agents complaining against the new rules.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism is inviting travel and tour companies to apply for outbound licences, which were introduced on February 1 after years of lobbying by travel industry bodies.
But licences are not open to all. Applicants must pay a K10 million deposit and will need two years’ experience organising tours inside Myanmar for foreign clients, said ministry director U Myo Win Nyunt.
Applicants will also be considered on the basis of a recommendation from the Union of Myanmar Travel Association and must pay a licence fee of K400,000.
U Myo Win Nyunt said the deposit was required in order to compensate travellers or foreign tour companies in the event of a dispute.
But more than 120 members of the UMTA have submitted objections to the association over the new rules.
Myanmar Myat Cherry Travel and Tours managing director Daw Cherry Win said the conditions could be “inhibiting” for small companies.
“The deposit and the requirement for two years’ experience aren’t necessary so more than 120 tour companies had already objected to the UMTA as of February 28,” she said.
“They should be allowed to operate without unnecessary rules as long as they can provide proper service and ensure safety,” she added.
UMTA general secretary U Naung Naung said the complaints had been forwarded to the ministry. He added that the association agreed the deposit would be difficult to pay for small companies, but also believed that some regulation of outbound tours was necessary.
“We will continue to report on the opinion of our members to the ministry, but some travel agents don’t pay enough attention to consumer rights. We have to protect consumers as well as giving a chance to SMEs,” he said.
“If we can create a system that would guarantee appropriate compensation to tourists while at the same time collecting a deposit less than K10 million, that would be a win-win situation,” he said.
Despite the lack of a licensing system, travel agents have been offering outbound packages for many years.
Ko Kyaw Moe Htet, the managing director of an import-export company, said he relied on a recommendation from a friend when choosing a company to book a family trip to Europe last year.
He said he welcomed efforts to regulate the sector.
“We were satisfied with our trip even though some things were not perfect, becasue we knew they tried as much as they could. But we had no idea they were not licensed,” he said.
Source: Myanmar Times