By Shelley Shan and Rachel Lin / Staff reporters
Nearly 300 Taiwanese tourists on Sunday came close to being stranded on Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island after they were asked to pay an additional US$720 each to continue the tour.
The trip was organized by Taiwan’s Mega International Travel Service (美加國際旅行社), which recruited 800 Taiwanese for the tour to Vietnam’s largest island during the Lunar New Year holiday. For the local tour, Mega entrusted the task to Vietnam WInnER International Travel Co and three other local travel agencies.
On the second day, WInnER asked the 292 Taiwanese tourists under its care to pay US$720 each to continue with the rest of the tour, saying Mega had not paid the full tour fee.
Photo: Tien Yu-hua, Taipei Times
The incident came to light when one of the travelers, surnamed Lin (林), wrote about the group’s plight on Facebook.
Lin also posted on social media a notice written in Chinese that he received from WInnER explaining why they were being charged extra.
Mega had only paid one-10th of the tour fees before the group left Taiwan, the Phu Quoc Island-based travel firm told the Taiwanese tourists, adding that it only entertained them at the beginning of the tour because of “humanitarian” reasons.
Moreover, Mega had not paid the fees it owed last month nor the money it owed airlines, WInnEr said.
The travelers would not be able to secure flights back to Taiwan until they pay for the rest of the tour, it said.
They could file a complaint with Taiwan’s Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA) and receive compensation for the additional tour fees, it said.
Mega general manager David Lin (林大鈞) earlier yesterday disputed WInnEr’s account, saying that among its local tour partners, it was the only one that charged extra fees.
He added that the company had asked its other local tour partners to take over the remaining travel arrangements.
However, later last night, Lin changed his tune, saying he had reached an agreement with WInnER that he would pay the tour fees by Feb. 26 and the two companies would help the Taiwanese travelers finish the tour of Phu Quoc Island.
Mega will take full responsibility and compensate those affected by the incident, he said.
TQAA secretary-general Wu Mei-hue (吳美惠) said that some of the tourists paid the fee as WInnER requested.
For those who did not pay additional fees, Mega has booked rooms at different hotels and hired other local travel agents to guide them, she said.
Members of the tour group are scheduled to return to Taiwan today and tomorrow.
TQAA public relations director Ringo Lee (李奇嶽) said that faced with this type of situation, travelers should keep all receipts of credit card payments, as well as those from the travel agencies that received the payments.
With these receipts, tourists can ask the TQAA to arbitrate its dispute with Mega, Lee said.
“The TQAA can also help tourists claim compensation from the travel agents’ performance bond insurance, but it all depends on the attitude of the travel agent,” Lee said.
The Tourism Administration said it has worked with the TQAA to ensure that Mega and WInnER address the dispute so the tourists can return home safely.
“We will also gather evidence and conduct investigations into this matter to determine whether Mega had contravened the Regulations Governing Travel Agencies (旅行業管理規則),” the agency said in a statement.
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