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Dispute between travel agencies leaves Taiwan tourists stranded in Vietnam

Government assists almost 300 Taiwanese tourists asked to pay additional funds after arriving on Phu Quoc Island

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Travelers in Phu Quoc informed by Vietnamese guides they must pay extra due to dispute between travel agencies, Feb. 10.

Travelers in Phu Quoc informed by Vietnamese guides they must pay extra due to dispute between travel agencies, Feb. 10. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A payment dispute between a Taiwan travel agency and companies in Vietnam left hundreds of Taiwanese tourists stranded on Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island.

When 292 tourists landed on the island off the southern coast of Vietnam on Saturday (Feb. 10), they were told by their Vietnamese tour guides to pay US$720 (NT$22,500) to continue on their planned itinerary. This was after the tourists had paid in full for a five-day vacation package to the Taipei-based travel agency Meijia International Travel Service, reported CNA.

According to media reports, the Taiwanese travel agency only provided 10% of the tour group’s necessary funds, failing to forward the bulk of payment to provide for each person’s food, lodging, and transportation in Phu Quoc. Meijia responded to these reports on Monday (Feb. 12) by claiming that the tour operator in Vietnam, WinnER International Travel, had initially agreed that funds would be transferred before Feb. 26, but abruptly changed the agreement to demand the money upfront.

As of Tuesday (Feb. 13), over 100 of the tourists in Phu Quoc had consented to pay the extra funds to continue their vacation as planned, while 23 people had returned home, per CNA. Meijia, which has also been identified as Eras Travel, Mega Travel, and the “We Love Tour” company in English language reports, stated that it will reimburse the expenses demanded by the Vietnamese agency.

For the tourists who were unable to pay the extra fees, there were reports of Taiwanese travelers struggling to find accommodation or to arrange travel back to Taiwan. For those who did shoulder the extra costs, there were fears that the additional expenses would imperil their return flights home if disputes between Meijia and another company involved in the tour package, Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways, were not quickly resolved.

After reports of the tour group’s troubles surfaced on Facebook on Saturday, the Taiwan Tourism Administration inquiried with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices in Ho Chih Minh. The Tourism Administration made a press release regarding the incident on Monday and said it is working with the Travel Quality Assurance Association and counterparts in Vietnam to ensure Taiwanese citizens return home safely.

The Taiwan government is also launching an investigation to determine if Meijia International Travel had violated regulations governing travel agencies.

A separate CNA report said that the majority of people affected by the dispute have been successfully contacted and that assistance had been provided to ensure their safe return to Taiwan. Taiwanese travelers who flew to Vietnam on Feb. 9 or Feb. 10 are expected to return to Taiwan on Tuesday (Feb. 13) or Wednesday (Feb. 14).

The report noted that about 160 of the tourists are still in the process of being reimbursed by Meijia. The Tourism Administration, under the Ministry of Transportation, said that upon their return to Taiwan, the tourists are entitled to file complaints and submit documentation for evidence relevant to violations of their rights as travelers or customers.