Lockdown: Won't accept credit, want refund, travellers tell tour firms

Updated: Jul 08, 2020, 07:46 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

78% tourists say want money back as they won't be travelling within the next year due to the pandemic; threaten legal action against operators

Representation image. Pic/Getty Images
Representation image. Pic/Getty Images

Three months into the lockdown, tourists who had booked international travel packages are demanding their money back. A survey conducted by the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat has revealed that 78 per cent tourists are not willing to take a credit shell, but want refunds from travel companies. The total worth of over 1,400 packages meant for over 5,000 tourists with six tour operates is over Rs 45 crore.

The survey was conducted between June 15 and 24 after the panchayat received many complaints from travellers regarding refunds. A total 1,423 people had booked tours for collectively 5,031 people, of which 3,054 are senior citizens. Around 75 per cent of the tours were international and the rest domestic. Of the 1,071 respondents with international packages, 406 had obtained all visas, 183 had obtained a few visas and 378 had not obtained any.

Of the 1,423, 1,115 requested for a refund. However, 1,029 or 72 per cent were offered a credit shell. Only 165 respondents have been able to get operators to agree to a refund. Cancellation charges will also be deducted by tour operators in 758 (55 per cent)

cases. Only 294 respondents will be getting a full amount in credit shell, while 811 respondents said they were offered a credit shell after deduction of cancellation charges.

"I booked a tour on March 26 for Japan worth Rs 3, 42,100 for two. I asked for a refund but the tour operator said that they can only give a credit shell after a deduction of Rs 20,000. We can use the credit shell to go anywhere next year. But I need the money back as the chances of travelling even in the next year are very low," said Dilip Parulekar, 70. He is willing to pay cancellation charges.

"78 per cent tourists are not willing to accept credit shell as they don't want to travel in the near future due to COVID-19. Also, 62 per cent participants have refused to accept the credit shell as they have the right to receive a refund,"

said Shirish Deshpande, executive chairman of MGP. More than 68 per cent of tourists want longer validity and transferability to any other tour in case they accept a credit shell. Around 40 per cent would prefer the credit shell to be transferred to relatives/friends.

"Most people are avoiding tours. But the companies' decision to cut Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 and by insisting that customers travel within a year," said Deshpande. He added that the MGP has approached Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and demanded that customers be given a refund. "Otherwise, we will have to go for a legal battle," said Deshpande.

"All tour companies are facing turbulent times. We had paid amounts in airline fares, hotels charges, to restaurants and local guides and tourist spots well in advance. As operators, we gave credit notes through which the tourist can opt for any tour or transfer it to their relatives," said Atmaram Parab of Isha Tours. He added that the situation is unprecedented and everyone should adjust. "If a tourist company is declared bankrupt, no one will get anything. We experienced it when two airlines closed down without refunding a single penny of air fair," added Parab.

Survey in numbers

Total respondents: 1,423 (75% international)
No. of respondents demanding refunds: 1,115
No. of respondents offered a credit shell: 1,029
Total travellers: 5,031
No. of senior citizens: 3,054
Amount claimed from tour operators: Rs 45 crore

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