The Travel Agency Regulation was gazetted on 25 February 2021 replacing the Travel Agency Regulation published on 30 November 2006. The Regulation introduces new changes to the operations of foreign travel agencies and updates requirements and standards for local travel agencies. The key areas of the Regulation are as follows:
New requirements for Foreign Travel Agencies
- The Regulation maintains the previous prohibition for foreign entities conducting travel agency services in the Maldives.
- However, travel agencies, online travel agencies, tour operators registered in a foreign country may establish a representative office in the Maldives to provide services to tourists originating from the registered country.
- The new Regulation provides that the representative office must be established with an affiliated local travel agency and such an office will only be allowed with a special permit from the Ministry of Tourism. The new requirement can be contrasted from the previous Regulation, whereby foreign travel agencies were allowed to re-register in the Maldives and provide services without being affiliated with a local travel agent.
- Effectively, the new change would prevent the foreign travel agencies operating in the Maldives without a local partner as their services can only be provided via an affiliate office established together with the local travel agency.
Permit requirements maintained
Similar to the previous Regulation, the new Regulation necessitates all travel agencies to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Tourism. The Regulation retains the previous conditions for the issuance of the permit. The condition includes:
- the applicant company or business’ Memorandum of Association must include providing travel agency services.
- fulfilment of the service standards provided in the Regulation.
- travel agency services must be available from the agency.
- the applicant company or business must submit a document from the Maldives Police Service and the Courts of Maldives affirming that the respective directors do not have a criminal record involving theft, deception, burglary, corruption and fraud in the 5 years preceding the application.
Updates to the standards of Travel Agencies
The Regulation includes an updated minimum standard for the travel agencies. The standards are as follows:
- Requirements to have phone numbers, email address, emergency contacts.
- A change to any of the basic information of the office must be communicated to the Ministry of Tourism and the change must be publicized.
- Records of the transactions between customers including financial records must be maintained.
- The conduct of the travel agencies must be in accordance with the laws.
Publication of prices
The Regulation makes it mandatory for all travel agencies to publish a price list in a manner accessible to the tourists at any time. The list must include how the prices will be charged for the services provided by the travel agency. The agency must notify the prices of any additional services prior to providing such services to tourists. Previously the Regulation only mandated travel agencies to have a list of prices available in their office.
Liability to indemnify
The Regulation provides that the travel agency must indemnify the tourists for all losses arising due to the cancellation of reservation, if such damages were incurred due to the fault of the travel agency. However, if the losses were incurred due to the cancellation by the resort, hotel, yacht marina, guesthouse or other tourist establishments in breach of the cancellation policy, the burden is on such establishment to indemnify the tourist.
The Regulation is effective from 25 February 2021.