THE credibility of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) may be in jeopardy following the failure of one of its members to honour all the tour packages it sold to consumers during the recent MATTA consumer travel fair in March.
Excellence Holidays had ceased operations without warning, leaving its customers stranded. About 20 travellers had lost what they had paid to the Kuala Lumpur-based travel agency, when their European tour was cancelled last Saturday, the day they were supposed to leave.
Tour packages that had been purchased from Excellence Holidays for travel between now and October, are also not expected to be honoured. The large-size agency is involved in inbound and outbound tours and ticketing, it had taken up 30 booths at the MATTA fair.
Paradise Travel & Tours manager - product development & contracting, Mr J Vikneswaran, said: "Public confidence has been shaken. People are now wary of making advance payments to travel agents and to purchase tours at MATTA travel fairs. If a big travel agency can suddenly abscond, what more the smaller players?"
He added: "In future, MATTA should be more proactive and vet its members' financial position before allowing them to participate at the travel fair. Outside the travel fair, the association should also look into safeguarding the interests of consumers."
MATTA president, Mr Ngiam Foon, said travellers who had paid for tour packages to travel agents that later go bankrupt could not expect compensation as financial guarantee was not offered by local insurance companies. However, Malaysia's Tourism Ministry secretary-general, Datuk Dr Victor Wee, said one of the options being looked at was to find a foreign insurance agency that was willing to underwrite this.
Seeking to restore public confidence, MATTA's management committee members plan to meet with Deputy Tourism Minister, Datuk Donald Lim, at his ministry tomorrow afternoon to see what mechanisms can be put in place to protect consumer interests in future.
Among the proposals, is the establishment of a fund that can be used as compensation for consumers in similar future situations.
Police are now trying to locate the directors of Excellence Holidays.
Source : TTG
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