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Talks under way to assist Taiwan tourists stuck in Vietnam: Officials

02/12/2024 07:35 PM
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Vietnamese tour guides and assistants speak with Taiwanese tourists and ask for extra payment. Photo courtesy of a private contributor
Vietnamese tour guides and assistants speak with Taiwanese tourists and ask for extra payment. Photo courtesy of a private contributor

Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) Negotiations are underway to ensure members of multiple Taiwan tour groups stuck in Vietnam without tour guides or transportation can return home as soon as possible, officials with the Tourism Administration said Monday.

It has been confirmed that members of the Taiwanese groups all booked tour packages with the Taipei-headquartered "We Love Tour" company.

News of the groups' troubles first surfaced on Feb. 10, after one Taiwanese traveler took to social media to complain about their treatment in Vietnam.

According to the member of one the affected tour groups, their group left Taiwan on Saturday, Lunar New Year's Day, for the island of Phú Quốc in Vietnam on a five-day tour.

However, on arriving in Phú Quốc, the group was notified by the receiving local travel agency, Vietnam WInnER International Travel Co. Ltd., that each individual would have to pay an additional US$720 for their itinerary to continue.

Those who failed to pay were informed they would have to continue their trips on their own or return to Taiwan.

Update

Feb. 16: Tourism Administration suspends operation of 'We Love Tour' for 3 months

Feb. 15: Ill-fated Vietnam tour group members return to Taiwan, demand answers

Other members of the Taiwanese tour groups also posted on their Facebook webpages a written statement from WInnER explaining that the company had decided to ask for additional payment because its Taiwanese counterpart failed to transfer sufficient funds for the Vietnam tours to move forward.

WInnER said it received 292 tourists from its cooperation with We Love Tour on Saturday.

The Taiwan company had promised to transfer the Taiwan groups' travel expenses and payment in full before the start of the tour in Vietnam, but the Vietnamese company received less than 10 percent of the funds, WInnER claimed.

Unable to absorb anymore financial losses, the Vietnamese company said it had no choice but to ask for money from the participating tourists, adding that the lack of funds could result in the tourists not having return flights home.

The Vietnamese company also claimed that the Taiwanese tour company had not wired enough money to the Vietnamese side since January.

On Monday, Taiwan's Tourism Administration said that over 100 of the 292 impacted tourists have paid the extra payment demanded by WInnER to continue their trips.

However, as We Love Tour still has not paid for a chartered flight it booked with Vietnam's Bamboo Airways, the extent of the company's financial disputes with its Vietnam counterparts may not be clear until Tuesday, the agency said.

It explained that based on its understanding, We Love Tour has financial disputes with a number of tour companies in Vietnam.

The overdue payments resulted in the schedules of tourists who left Taiwan on Friday and Saturday being negatively affected, the agency added.

The Tourism Administration said it will conduct further investigations to determine whether We Love Tour has violated the Regulations Governing Travel Agencies.

It will also continue to work with the Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA) to negotiate with the Vietnamese side and guarantee the safe return of Taiwanese tourists affected by the dispute, the agency added.

On the rights of the tourists, the TQAA's public relations representative Ringo Lee (李奇嶽) said anyone who faces a similar situation, where their rights have been violated, should ask for payment invoices or receipts that can be provided to the TQAA.

The association will assist such tourists with disputes and insurance claims when necessary, Lee said.

Later Monday, We Love Tour released a press statement refuting WInnER's claims. It said the groups in question that left for Vietnam marked the first cooperation between We Love Tour and WInnER.

We Love Tour said the two companies previously came to an agreement, observed by a witness, that all payments would be cleared by Feb. 26.

WInnER went back on the agreement and asked for the complete payment after a tourist complained about a meal on arriving in Vietnam, the Taiwanese company argued.

We Love Tour's statement indicated the company is working to resolve the problem and ensure itineraries continue after learning about WInnER demanding extra payments from Taiwanese tourists.

It also implored tourists to "refrain from being held hostage financially" by the Vietnamese company, and promised to cover all losses sustained by its customers.

(By Yeh Kuan-yin and James Lo)

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