Travellers' grouses rise as tours fail to deliver

Travellers' grouses rise as tours fail to deliver

SINGAPORE - More Singaporeans travelling on group tours are getting less than they are promised, according to complaints made to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case).

Their grouses dominate the pile of grievances Case received against travel agencies in the first half of this year, and the annual total looks set to outdo past years' numbers.

In all, there were 732 complaints between January and June. At this rate, the annual figure will probably exceed last year's 1,436 complaints as well as the 1,396 made in 2011 and 994 in 2010.

The issues that rile group tourists range from clueless tour bus drivers and lousy - even illegal - guides to skipping of star attractions and being badgered for tips or risk being barred from boarding the bus.

Some travellers like businesswoman Grace Tong, 40, have made police reports. The mother of four spent $15,000 for a group of six on a nine-day Europe tour in June that got off to a poor start from day one.

It began in Milan instead of Zurich, the bus drivers got lost repeatedly causing the travellers to miss destinations on the itinerary, and the guides failed to provide adequate commentary, demanded tips and rushed through the trip.

Travel agencies, when contacted, said the lapses were due to bus breakdowns, double-booking by cruise ship operators and inexperienced drivers provided by overseas partners.

One agency claimed the travellers were told tips were compulsory and had to be paid beforehand. Another accused its customers of pressuring tour guides to "remember every date by heart".

Case executive director Seah Seng Choon attributes the increasing complaints of mix-ups and slip-ups to several factors: More people travelling, new travel agencies springing up to capitalise on the trend and greater demand for exotic destinations.

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