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Ill-fated Vietnam tour group members return to Taiwan, demand answers

02/15/2024 03:18 PM
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CNA photo Feb. 14, 2024
CNA photo Feb. 14, 2024

Taipei, Feb. 15 (CNA) Members of a Taiwanese tour group left stranded in Vietnam due to a dispute between two travel agencies have demanded answers following their return to Taiwan on Tuesday and Wednesday.

One of the travelers from the 292-strong tour group who arrived at Taoyuan International Airport on Wednesday, a man surnamed Lin (林), told CNA he hoped the tour's organizer, "We Love Tour," would provide a clear explanation for the trip's numerous shortcomings.

According to Lin, several promised itineraries on the island of Phú Quốc were not filled.

Lin said he felt like he was "deceived," as some of the transportation and accommodation costs, which were supposed to be covered by the travel agency, were shifted onto the travelers.

An anonymous male traveler shared with CNA that he had paid for a five-day trip arranged by the We Love Tour but found himself "abandoned" for three hours on the third day without accommodation.

Furthermore, on the fourth day, he claimed he had to bear some of the meal expenses himself as no food was provided.

Also expressing his dissatisfaction with the We Love Tour, a man surnamed Su (蘇), said that he felt the travel agency had been insincere in its handling of the fiasco.

Su said that numerous promises made by the agency turned out to be empty, recounting an instance where he had to personally cover taxi expenses, contrary to the agreed-upon terms of the tour.

Su said the entire incident stemmed from a dispute between the We Love Tour company and Vietnam's Winner International Travel Co. Ltd.

On Thursday, Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材), the head of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, told reporters in Taipei that We Love Tour may be subjected to a business suspension of up to three months due to negligence, citing regulations related to tourism and consumer protection.

Abandoned travelers

News of Taiwan tour groups being abandoned in Phú Quốc first surfaced on Monday when individuals from the groups took to Facebook to complain about their treatment.

About 800 travelers from several Taiwanese tour agencies took off from Taiwan on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 for five-day tours to Phú Quốc managed by Vietnamese tour companies.

Of the travelers who departed on the two dates, 292 were under the management of We Love Tour whose tours were scheduled to be operated by Vietnam's Winner International Travel Co. Ltd.

However, on the evening of Feb. 11, the general manager of Winner International Travel, Kevin Tang (唐凱) gathered the travelers to demand an additional US$720 per person for the tour to continue.

Speaking to CNA on Monday, Tang said that he had demanded payment from We Love Tour General Manager David Lin (林大鈞) by Jan. 31 to fund the Feb. 10-14 tour groups.

Tang said Lin continued to find excuses to not pay on time, adding that Lin had promised to wire money on Feb. 9 as well as to have cash delivered by We Love Tour personnel.

After no funds were provided by Feb. 10, Tang said he and his shareholders decided to call Lin in front of all 292 members of the tour group to demand proper payment on Feb. 11.

With no additional funds guaranteed, Tang said he resorted to asking the tourists from Taiwan to make an additional payment for their vacation to go ahead.

According to Taiwan's Tourism Administration, four charter flights between Tuesday and Wednesday brought back all individuals who left Taiwan for the island of Phú Quốc in Vietnam on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10

The Tourism Administration said Wednesday that an investigation would be launched to determine whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of the Taiwanese company.

We Love Tour, meanwhile, has promised to compensate affected passengers.

On Wednesday, David Lin issued a statement, promising to be fully responsible for the affected passengers' losses.

Lin said We Love Tour plans to file a lawsuit against Winner International, emphasizing that this incident has significantly impacted the rights and interests of the tourists.

It also severely damaged the reputation of We Love Tour, he said.

Lin said that the incident stemmed from the local operator reneging on the agreement, claiming that the payment was supposed to be settled on Feb. 26.

Lin said that blame for the tour group's travails lay with Winner International Travel's decision to cancel the planned itineraries.

In response, Winner International Travel said Thursday that it hoped We Love Tour would fulfill its contractual obligations by making the full payment as agreed.

Long-term partner's accusation

ZIONTOUR, a Vietnamese travel agency that has worked with We Love Tour for 11 years, told CNA on Wednesday the Taiwanese travel agency repeatedly delayed payments to Vietnamese partners and owes money to at least four local operators.

Phan Anh Tri, the general manager of ZIONTOUR, a travel agency based in Da Nang, said that We Love Tour owes his company US$80,000 since 2019, with only US$10,000 having been paid thus far.

Underlining the financial strain of such delinquency, Phan said that competition in Vietnam's tourism industry is intense, with profitability already difficult without the added pressure of nonpayment.

(By Chen Chia-lun, Wu Ruei-chi, Huang Li-yun, James Lo and Chung Yu-chen)

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