Ensure tour agencies take the high road in service

Visitors at a travel fair last year. Tour agencies can make travelling a bed of roses or a nightmare. Things like well-trained staff and detailed itineraries that specify what is included and excluded are crucial.
Visitors at a travel fair last year. Tour agencies can make travelling a bed of roses or a nightmare. Things like well-trained staff and detailed itineraries that specify what is included and excluded are crucial.ST FILE PHOTO

Could a system of accreditation and ratings be started for tour agencies?

They could be rated based on their service standards and feedback from customers, including the number of complaints.

Another suggestion is to make it mandatory for their staff to be properly trained not only in the tourist spots and geographic knowledge but also in customer management and emergency and crisis procedures.

These agencies should also be made to give more detailed itineraries, such as specifying stopover points, the type of food and the entrance tickets included.

My experience with a tour agency revealed that it was involved in several dodgy practices.

The itinerary given varied vastly from what actually took place, and there were many hidden costs that were not made known.

For example, a gondola ride up a hill was excluded, a visit to an attraction was cancelled and another attraction that was on the itinerary was closed for renovation and those on the tour had to pay extra to visit an alternative place.

There are many unreported cases of below-par services by local tour agencies.

Tourists just have to bite the bullet, as they are in unknown territory overseas and these tour agencies continue to cut corners and maximise profits.

I urge watchdogs like the Singapore Tourism Board to take action.

If the tour agency is good and honest, travelling can be a bed of roses. If not, then travelling can become a nightmare.

Pang Kek Woo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Ensure tour agencies take the high road in service'. Print Edition | Subscribe