STB gets feedback on Travel Agents Act changes

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is reconsidering how early in the booking process travel agents should inform customers of cancellation terms and conditions.

This was among the suggestions made during a three-week- long public consultation on proposed amendments to the Travel Agents Act and Regulations. The Ministry of Trade and Industry yesterday said it got 16 submissions from the public.

The STB also held sessions with more than 160 industry stakeholders - including travel agents, tour guides and industry associations - to get feedback on the amendments which are aimed at primarily strengthening the regulatory framework and enhancing consumer protection while maintaining a pro-business environment.

Some of the proposed amendments include the option for travel agents to issue pro-rated refunds when some travel products have been already consumed, increased investigative powers for STB, and a reduction in the time agencies have to produce a defence from 21 days to 14 days if accused of wrongdoing.

The Bill is targeted to be tabled in Parliament later this year.

STB's travel agents and tourist guides director, Ms Ong Ling Lee, said: "While some stakeholders expressed concern that the proposed increase in licence fees to align with cost recovery rates might be too steep, there was no unanimous disagreement on any specific amendment. Rather, respondents provided useful suggestions to fine-tune the proposed amendments."

  • 1,200

  • Number of licensed travel agents in Singapore.

  • 607

  • Number of complaints against travel agents which the Consumers Association of Singapore received last year.

One well-received proposed amendment was to reduce compliance cost and administrative burden, such as travel agents no longer having to purchase fidelity insurance.

Singapore has about 1,200 licensed travel agents. The Consumers Association of Singapore said that last year it received 607 complaints against travel agents, making it the 10th most complained-about industry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'STB gets feedback on Travel Agents Act changes'. Print Edition | Subscribe