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Trade criticises Thailand's new regulations for tour guides
Greg Lowe, Bangkok, July 1, 2015

TOURISM businesses in Thailand are opposing new regulations for tour guides and groups that they say will increase business costs and red tape at a time when the industry is facing uncertainty.


Spice Roads is one such company, having last week received a letter from the Department of Tourism stating that guides must now register and create a job order for all trips prior to departure using an online portal, a process which enables authorities to run spot checks on active tours.


Failure to comply can result in fines and the revoking of an operator’s tourism licence.


“I am surprised that Thailand, as a country which embraces technology and already has a comprehensive guide licensing system in place, would feel the need to retrofit such draconian systems,” said Daniel Moylan, chief adventure manager at Spice Roads. “These will surely only make it harder for all businesses to operate in the tourism sector.”


Complying with regulations will increase administrative costs for businesses such as Spice Roads, which runs about 20 trips per day, and guides will also be required to visit the office to collect the job order, adding to transport expenses and guide hours.


The manner in which the trade has been informed about the new regulations has also been inconsistent. Tony Soorangura, associate managing director of NS Travel & Tours, said his business has known about the policy since late last year, while authorities have not yet contacted Khiri Travel Group.


Tony said: “It adds cost and wastes time with no obvious benefit...We are facing an economic downturn and there is only one machine left to drive income  — tourism. As such we are in need of support and encouragement, not another layer of non-practical policy.”


Willem Niemeijer, CEO of Khiri Travel Group, nevertheless agreed the policy would increase costs without delivering any benefits.


“Laos has a similar approach (to the regulation), without an online site. It does not work there and serves no purpose,” he remarked.


The Bureau of Tourism Business and Guide Registration, which is responsible for administering the regulation, could not be reached for comment.

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