Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 2 News List

TQAA gains authority to help travelers with cash

COMPENSATION Travel Quality Assurance Association members voted yesterday to allow the group to step in to help consumers whose travel agencies go bankrupt

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA) amended its guidelines during its convention yesterday to authorize it to provide immediate compensation to travelers when travel agencies are unable to continue offering services to their customers.

The association is made up of more than 2,600 travel agencies nationwide, accounting for 85 percent of all agencies in the country.

The amendment was proposed in response to a series of incidents during the Lunar New Year holiday this year, in which agencies went bankrupt and travelers then had difficulty recouping their losses.

"In the past, compensation for travelers was generally provided by insurance companies. The process, however, takes about three to six months," said Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰), director of the Tourism Bureau's hotel, travel and training division.

Chang said the association decided to compensate travelers' losses first and then press the claims with insurances firms. It has promised to raise a guarantee of NT$100 million (US$3.03 million) in order to make payments, he said.

For people who choose to continue their trip, the TQAA could quickly transfer them to another agency's tour group, he said.

He said banks are now more willing to allow travel agencies to install credit card machines, since the association said they will handle some of the consumer disputes.

Association secretary-general Chen I-chuan (陳怡全) said his group still needs to work out details of the plan with banks.

Travel agencies must pay an annual membership fee to join the association, as well as a travel quality insurance deposit. The amount of the fees varies depending on the agency's capital and services.

Agencies that are not members must present evidence to the Tourism Bureau that they are covered by NT$20 million travel insurance.

Yesterday's convention was attended by more than 1,000 travel service providers.

Yao Ta-kuang (姚大光), chairman of the Travel Agent Association, said the travel industry has suffered a great deal this year, both domestically and overseas.

Yao said the devaluation of the NT dollar and soaring oil prices were two major reasons that fewer people have been traveling this year.

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