Govt eyes approval seal for Net-based foreign travel agents

The government is considering issuing a digital seal of approval to overseas travel agencies` Web sites following complaints about unreliable foreign-based operators, sources said Tuesday.
The move is part of an international system envisioned by the Construction and Transport Ministry, according to the sources.
The ministry`s plans include assessing overseas Web sites popular with Japanese tourists and giving approved sites a digital seal of approval. Customers would be able to purchase the services of approved operators with confidence, the sources said.
The problem has arisen due to the growing popularity of Internet-based travel services. An increasing number of travelers are booking overseas tours through Web sites operated by foreign travel agencies, sources said.
Previously, travelers were forced to buy airline tickets at the counter of a domestic travel agency. The Internet, however, allows customers to reserve tours regardless of the operator`s location.
For package tours, most overseas-based travel operators usually either mail the tour vouchers to their Japanese customers, or alternatively arrange for their customers to collect the vouchers upon arrival in the overseas destination.
However, there have reportedly been instances where the vouchers have not been prepared, or the travelers have complained about the poor quality of the tours organized by the Internet-based operators, sources said.
The problem for customers of such services is there is no obvious authority with which to register complaints. Foreign Internet-based travel agencies operate outside the control of domestic authorities, and there are no international laws pertaining to their regulation.