Edghill proposes regulations for travel agents as he addresses complaints, future plans
Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, on Monday, hinted that he intends to use powers legally conferred on him to operationalise regulations for persons who operate as travel service agents in the local services and aviation industry.
During a meeting at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), Edghill said since he became a minister in August 2020, he has received a number of complaints from the travelling public which directly target the operations of travel agents.
He related that more recently the complaints he has received surrounds timely and full cash refunds to deserving customers. The minister offered his appreciation for the role travel agents play in making travel safe but noted that it has become necessary to put regulations in place.
He said the regulations are necessitated by the vagueness of the legal architecture that governs the sector, the mounting complaints and the need to raise standards as Guyana prepares for its economic take-off from the oil and gas industry.
“You’re not just a little business in a cubicle somewhere. You are a service industry, you provide necessary service to the travelling public and we want to ensure that you do so in a regulated manner and in a framework that is good for you and your customers. Rights of customers must be protected,” he said.
Edghill recalled discussions on regulating the sector which commenced in 2019 by his predecessor. He said he would like to pick up on those discussions with the aim of operationalising those regulations through a joint effort.
Edghill believes that the regulations are more important now than ever because of the new environment that travel agents will have to operate in as Guyana expands.
“I know some have been challenged… but we have to optimise what we have to meet international standards. Guyana is on the rise and because of that fact we have to look at all the players at all levels and ensure we are getting up to speed.
“Up your game, expand your network, ensure you’re in compliance and as they say in the airline industry… let’s take off,” the Public Works Minister charged.
One the issue of refunds, the minister sought to find out “why are we unable to provide the customer with the full refund even though the airline is giving full refunds… what are the challenges?”
He was told by the travel agents that, in some cases, the airlines do not give the full refund.
But more importantly, agents claim that a standard US$25 is usually deducted as a service charge for the refund process. This is in addition to the deducted service charge, which is paid at the time of purchase, although not all agents do this deduction.
The agents were adamant that a refund must carry a penalty because of their need to honour banking fees, pay staff and take care of other financial obligations, particular in this era of COVID-19, and the impact it has on the travel industry.
There were several explanations proffered on the refund issue with the minister once again underscoring the need for a regulated sector that can be unified on these issues.