|The tourists, who are all Vietnamese agents for the company Herbalife, were stuck in Thailand because of a dispute between a Vietnamese travel company and its Thai partner.—File Photo
HCM CITY (VNS)— With support from Vietnamese and Thai authorities, all of the 701 tourists stranded in Bangkok over the weekend are now back in HCM City.
The tourists, who are all Vietnamese agents for the company Herbalife, were stuck in Thailand because of a dispute between a Vietnamese travel company and its Thai partner.
A representative of Thailand's Tourism Authority based in HCM City told Viet Nam News yesterday that it had told the Thai partner to ensure the safe return of the tourists and provide them with basic services.
More than half of the group arrived on Monday and the remaining on Tuesday evening at HCM City's Tan Son Nhat airport.
The 701 tourists were among 3,000 Herbalife agents who had travelled to Bangkok for a company seminar and tour scheduled from June 12-18.
All of the 701 tourists had booked package tours, with the HCM City-based Travel Life company but when they arrived in Bangkok, the Thai travel company, Thai 2020, refused to offer any services, including pick-up at the airport.
The company said that Travel Life had paid only 30 per cent of the contracted costs for the package tours, and that it could not service 701 people without the rest of the payment.
En Viet Ltd Company, a Vietnam Airlines agent, is also waiting for money from its own agent, My Uc A company, which has not received full payment from Travel Life.
According to HCM City authorities, Travel Life, which was founded two years ago, has never received a license to conduct outbound tours. It is permitted to only book tours within Viet Nam.
An inspection team from the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism on Monday (June 17) visited the Travel Life office, but the director, Nguyen Thi Kim Khanh, was not there.
A company spokesperson told media that it had received VND4.5 billion ($213,794) from the 701 tourists but that it had failed to pay its Thai partner.
The department also found that Travel Life registered to operate on 34 Nhat Chi Mai Street in Ward 13 in Tan Binh District, but its office is located at 26/30 Tan Son Nhi Street in Tan Phu District in HCM City.
A Viet Nam News reporter visited the Travel Life office on Wednesday afternoon but it was closed. The director could not be reached by phone.
A representative of the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism said that it would ask the police to investigate the case.
In a statement released to Viet Nam News on Tuesday evening (June 18), Herbalife said it wanted to clarify that it did not organise the tour. The statement said the company "waived responsibility" in the case.
Travel firms under scrutiny
The Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism has announced that it would strengthen management over the operation of all travel firms in the country.
Nguyen Huu Tho, chairman of the Viet Nam Tourism Association, said the case had left a negative impression of the country.
Vo Anh Tai, chairman of the HCM City Travel Association, who is also general director of Saigontourist, said more and more bogus travel firms or companies without licenses were being established.
Tai has asked concerned authorities to strictly punish any travel companies that cheat customers.
A salesperson at Saigontourist, who declined to be named, said that many tour operators had cut prices to attract customers, but the quality of the tours was poor.
For instance, tour programmes include more shopping time instead of visits to tourist spots. Hotels are often located in the suburbs and tours depart late at night and return early in morning, she said.
Other travel firms are not transparent in pricing, which often are exclusive of tax, surcharges and tips for tour guides, she added. — VNS