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> Bhutan. Beware Tour Operators., Beware of Tour Oerators in Bhutan
dntfckwitme
post Mar 20 2009, 06:26 AM
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Do NOT use Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks as your tour operator in Bhutan. Their service is entirely unsatisfactory. They have hidden charges, charge above the government rate without justification, show a general lack of transparency and documentation, and communicate their services and intentions poorly. Very unprofessional.

Travel to Bhutan is a daunting task as one has to choose from over 235 "approved" agents. Payment is through the government but there is no guarantee of the quality or implementation of service. In fact, the Tourist Council of Bhutan has no legal authority to insure "approved" agents deliver services that meet any standard of quality. Be very careful when booking an agent in Bhutan. Only book with an agent that's been directly recommended by a reputable source. Do NOT rely solely on the "approved" government list. Be warned – when traveling to Bhutan you must pre-pay your entire trip and if you are not happy you will forfeit everything regardless.
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yoedbum
post Mar 25 2009, 07:12 PM
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Mr STEVE COHN IS OUT TO DESTROY THE IMAGE OF BHUTAN AND BHUTAN NORPHEL TOURS DUE TO HIS UNFORTUNATE INCIDENCES IN BANGKOK DURING THE BANGKOK AIRPORT DISPUTE IN NOV 2008. MR STEVE NEVER CAME TO BHUTAN AND INFACT HE CANCELLED HIS TRIP TO BHUTAN 5 DAYS AFTER HIS SCHEDULED DATE OF ARRIVAL.

HE HAS UNDERMINED TO REALIZE THAT EVERTHING HAS A COST IMPLICATION IN LIFE. HE IS FRUSTRATED WITH THE MINIMUM CANCELLATION CHARGES MADE ON HIM.

ACCORDING TO THE TOURSIM COUNCIL OF BHUTAN, ALL THE TOUR OPERATORS ARE LIABLE TO CHARGE HIGHER THEN THE MINIMUM FIXED TARIFF DEPENDING ON THE QUALITY SERVICES WE PROVIDE. THERE ARE MORE DETAILS TO BE PROVIDED BUT THE READERS WOULD UNDERSTAND THE CRUX OF THE ISSUE BY THIS SHORT REPLY MR STEVE'S UNDUE ALLEGATION.
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dntfckwitme
post Mar 27 2009, 12:21 PM
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No one is out to destroy the reputation of Bhutan. It is very easy to dismiss a negative review by characterizing it as something evil or culturally disrespectful.

This Tour Operator, Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks, conducts business without proper documentation and paperwork and does not use industry standard client sign-off of T&Cs prior to booking, apparently preferring to introduce charges after the fact and without prior agreement. I found my experience with this Tour Operator to be totally unsatisfactory and I feel they lacked professionalism, transparency about their charges and ways of doing business and failed to document adequately the processes they planned to implement. That is my honest assessment of this company. All potential clients are free to make their own judgement at their own risk.

This case was brought before the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB), which agreed and sided with the clients, felt they should be given a full refund and intervened on their behalf. Unfortunately the TCB does not have any legal authority and could only pressure the Tour Operator to comply. The Tour Operator, Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks, instead of complying with the advice of the TCB, decided to seize a sizable fee at their discretion.

These are the facts. This post is not meant to discourage travelers from visiting Bhutan. This post is intended to give fair and justifiable cause to do your due diligence before booking and paying for your trip because, evidently, the means for seeking resolution to any conflicts are clearly limited.
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drajj
post Mar 31 2009, 05:33 AM
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I travelled in Bhutan in October last year, all arrangements made by Norphel. Pre-paid as itemised and agreed. Conditions of contract clearly understood by me (I have some experience in tailoring my own holidays and expeds). Standard rates. The entire trip like clockwork, no glitches, even a few unexpected gifts along the way. Charming people to deal with, and to keep company with. No "hidden extras" on departure.
I can't imagine that anyone who is happy to sign their name as "dntfckwitme" in a public domain would have appreciated Bhutan anyway.
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dntfckwitme
post Mar 31 2009, 08:55 AM
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Don’t shoot the messenger Draji. Do remember the adage about making assumptions.

I’m glad you had a good visit to Bhutan. I imagine most visitors do. And I sincerely hope that a majority continue to do so. I would just recommend a different tour company.

I have quite a bit of experience tailoring my own holidays and adventure outings in some very difficult locales. Many successful and memorable journeys were even arranged through a good old-fashioned handshake. I imagine that I would have had little trouble understanding contracts if they had in fact been issued. The point was that there was not proper documentation issued by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks and that very specific conditions were stipulated by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks after the fact — conditions that were deemed to be unfair and unreasonable by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, as well as a number of consulting tour operators.

I can understand how you were charmed on your trip that went like clockwork. But it’s always a challenge, and ultimately revealing, how a company deals with clients when problems arise.
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lanikai
post Apr 1 2009, 05:01 AM
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QUOTE(dntfckwitme @ Mar 31 2009, 08:55 AM) *

Don’t shoot the messenger Draji. Do remember the adage about making assumptions.

I’m glad you had a good visit to Bhutan. I imagine most visitors do. And I sincerely hope that a majority continue to do so. I would just recommend a different tour company.

I have quite a bit of experience tailoring my own holidays and adventure outings in some very difficult locales. Many successful and memorable journeys were even arranged through a good old-fashioned handshake. I imagine that I would have had little trouble understanding contracts if they had in fact been issued. The point was that there was not proper documentation issued by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks and that very specific conditions were stipulated by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks after the fact — conditions that were deemed to be unfair and unreasonable by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, as well as a number of consulting tour operators.

I can understand how you were charmed on your trip that went like clockwork. But it’s always a challenge, and ultimately revealing, how a company deals with clients when problems arise.

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lanikai
post Apr 1 2009, 05:49 AM
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QUOTE(lanikai @ Apr 1 2009, 05:01 AM) *

Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks has been very clear, honest, and totally trustworthy in all their dealings with me. I arranged the travel for 20 people for a 10 night trip in 2006. We all thought that would be our one and only trip, but I returned in 2007 for an 11 night trip and in 2008, planned a 17 night trip (cut short by 5 days stranded in Bangkok). Several of the original 20 made repeat trips, both with me again, or separately on their own. I would never think of using any other tour operator than Norphel, and those who returned on their own, also chose Norphel again. The owner is an exceptionally intelligent person, and a skilled, hardworking professional, who surprised us with many unexpected and thoughtful "extras". It was good to be working with someone who embodied the Buddhist beliefs of kindness and compassion. Without exception, I heard nothing but praise from members of our groups. One person daily expressed her thankfulness "for a wonderful day", because each day WAS wonderful. My personal experience as a travel planner for 19 years, has put me in contact with tour operators in New Zealand, Australia, many Asian and SE Asian countries, several in Central and S America, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Easter Island, Israel, Russia, Egypt, and more. I have had very good experiences with the tour companies that I have used. I place Norphel in a very special top category, for the clarity of their communications prior to the trips and especially for the humane special interactions while on the trip (incidentally, this factor is often missing in some super organized companies). Too bad that the dissatisfied writer did not get to Bhutan but cancelled before arrival. Based on my own experience, had he met the Norphel guides and driver and owner, he might be singing their praises instead.
I feel great confidence in recommending Norphel Tours & Treks for their honest dealings and care-full, thought-full way with their clients.


QUOTE(dntfckwitme @ Mar 31 2009, 08:55 AM) *

Don’t shoot the messenger Draji. Do remember the adage about making assumptions.

I’m glad you had a good visit to Bhutan. I imagine most visitors do. And I sincerely hope that a majority continue to do so. I would just recommend a different tour company.

I have quite a bit of experience tailoring my own holidays and adventure outings in some very difficult locales. Many successful and memorable journeys were even arranged through a good old-fashioned handshake. I imagine that I would have had little trouble understanding contracts if they had in fact been issued. The point was that there was not proper documentation issued by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks and that very specific conditions were stipulated by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks after the fact — conditions that were deemed to be unfair and unreasonable by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, as well as a number of consulting tour operators.

I can understand how you were charmed on your trip that went like clockwork. But it’s always a challenge, and ultimately revealing, how a company deals with clients when problems arise.


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dntfckwitme
post Apr 1 2009, 10:42 AM
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This is a very informative discussion, offering some terrific insights and just the kind of topics that forums were made for. It’s fascinating as well to note how many have come out to sing the praises of Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks, having never posted such praise before. And all just joining the forum by a sudden stroke of serendipity — imagine that.

The facts remain that there was not proper documentation issued by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks and that very specific conditions were stipulated by Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks after the fact. These conditions and the methods they were employed were deemed to be unfair and unreasonable by the Tourism Council of Bhutan, as well as a number of consulting tour operators.

The purpose of this post is to warn those planning a visit to Bhutan to be very careful in selecting their tour operator. I cannot recommend Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks based on my experience. Let the buyer beware.
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happy_in_la
post Apr 1 2009, 11:29 AM
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My experience with Bhutan Norphel Tours was the best ever! Everyone on my tour was delighted with all the warm yet professional members of the staff – especially Lemo herself. We thought they handled the finances well and were not overpriced, while giving us top quality service.

They always were kind and caring as well as knowledgeable. They would take our hands to help us over rough spots on the paths. My roommate suffered from a bout of altitude sickness and they made a change so that she could be examined at a nearby hospital, all without inconveniencing anyone at all.

I recommend them whole-heartedly!
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chewin
post Apr 2 2009, 07:17 AM
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DO use Norphel Tours and Treks. Unlike the fellow with the angry name, I had a wonderful experience with Norphel Tours & Treks. There were no hidden fees, in fact many added "bonuses" were included. Also found the operators very knowledgeable, friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. I have also recommended them to friends who have had (according to them) a fantastic time.

Although I am writing in response to what I perceive as an incorrect post; I wholly recommend Norphel Tours, and plan to use them again. They provided wonderful insights into this fascinating place. They love Bhutan, and communicate this by sharing with visitors. We went to many special places, off the beaten track (even for Bhutan). At NO time were we ever subjected to that underlying ambivalence from our guides that sometimes happens. They were always truly attentive.

I also found the Norphel staffed to be very educated, which contributed quite a bit to my enjoyment. Conversations took place on all variety of subjects with honest and informed opinions.

Selecting a tour operator in Bhutan is difficult, which is why I want whole heartedly endorse Norphel Tours & Treks. I believe it will make for a better trip.
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dntfckwitme
post Apr 4 2009, 02:19 AM
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The truth of the matter is that we booked our trip with Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks based on the recommendation of a satisfied customer and a colleague. Unfortunately these glowing reviews of Norphel, apparently marshaled by the proprietor, don’t address the facts raised in the initial post. It’s in the face of difficulties and challenges that is perhaps the best judge of a company’s character.

In the face of challenges, Lemo, the proprietor of Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks, made certain decisions that placed unfair burdens on the client. These decisions were tantamount to changing the terms of business without prior consent. After the proprietor of Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks refused to discuss these decisions with their client, the matter was brought before the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). The TCB deemed the decisions made by Lemo to be unfair and unreasonable and urged Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks to refund the clients payment in full. Unfortunately the TCB does not have legal authority to enforce their recommendations and Lemo made the decision not to follow the recommendations of the TCB. In fact Lemo refused to enter into any kind of meaningful negotiation to arrive at a reasonable resolution.

One can hardly call this post incorrect. These are the facts of the case at hand and are indisputable. We can have all the satisfied customers in the world post their praises but this does not change the facts. Choose carefully.
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lanikai
post Apr 7 2009, 12:10 AM
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I feel I must respond to this most recent blog by dntfckwitme. I can see how detrimental it could be for some uninformed person reading these blogs to get at the truth. It is cheap for dntfckwitme to make these assertions, when the reader is not able to get the details of his contact with this reputable travel company. I feel uniquely qualified to share my experience, because I also was stranded in BKK (and Taipei) during the Nov. BKK airport shutdown. As stated in my April 1 reply, my 3 time experience with this company + the experience of others who returned on their own following their first trip (in 2006, with me), would negate the charges made in his first blog. There are several points that I need to clarify first:

1) He gave a negative connotation to my and others joining the forum on the day of their postings. Funny that he would make a remark about that,because it appears he is also new to this forum and joined only after his cancelled Bhutan trip. I was not familiar with this forum, until someone who traveled to Bhutan told me about it. I joined it in order to respond to this apparently vindictive person, who appeared to be out to destroy this reputable and outstanding tour company. Very certainly, this tour company, which offers excellent and professional service; with high marks as compared to the many tour companies I have worked with in my 19 years in travel planning work, does not deserve such vilification. One opens the page on internet and finds several bold "warnings" against using this company. Because of his blatant methodology and his carefully crafted "generalities", I feel his unwarranted "warnings" cannot be ignored.

2) To keep the record straight, I contacted Lemo, the proprietor of Norphel Tours, after I rec'd news from one of the people who went on the 2007 trip with me, about this person who was posting such destructive blogs. When I contacted Lemo, I learned that this Steve Cohn had cancelled his tour 5 days AFTER the tour start date, and had never been in Bhutan at all. His anger is generated because he expected to receive his full payment to be refunded! We know that all tour companies have cancellation deadlines, because on arrival, the drivers, the guides, the restaurants, the hotels all have to be ready for the clients. Mr. Cohn described himself as being an experienced travel planner, so it is difficult to explain how he could not know this. It was I would sent out word to many of the people who traveled to Bhutan with me, to inform them about this unfair attack. I did this because I have heard their many favorable comments about Lemo, her guides and drivers. Some have responded to me by email, and only a couple managed to get to the Travel Forum site, some because of unfamiliarity with computers.

3) Reading Mr. Cohn's most recent blog, I felt that I needed to learn more details, to be able to understand more fully his general statements. I emailed Lemo, who is currently in Kathmandu,Nepal to assist her guru in a gathering of the great Drukpa council, a first time event in the whole world, and involving 1500 people. As she was preparing to leave, on the 4th, she quickly emailed some details giving the history of Mr. Cohn's contacts with her and with the Tourism Council of Bhutan (certainly a VERY different story from his version, when one hears the details) .

Mr C only contacted Norphel in late October, 2009 for the Nov. 2009 trip, so it is highly possible, that this booking took place in the non-refundable, 30 day prior-to-start of trip period. The fact is that if Norphel sent info' re the cancellation policy when the tour was booked, Mr. C would have received NO refund; the total amount was non-refundable since he cancelled 5 days AFTER the tour's start date. According to Lemo "they booked their trip very late in October and they were scheduled to come in November during peak season..and they were only 2 pax". Imagine what work she had to do to make the reservations during this peak period ( the celebrations around the coronation of the new king and the 100th anniversary of the Kingdom were ongoing; special dedication ceremonies meant entire hotel space in one hotel might be reserved for a period of days, to accommodate the royal party; special 3 day First Annual Folk Festival; the expected arrival of the endangered black necked cranes coming to winter in Bhutan from Tibet; masked dance festival in a rural village.) Our trip to Bhutan, even though shortened by the BKK airport closure; included attending all the above, including one night at the hotel in Trongsa just before the hotel closed for public use due to the 4 night stay of the royal party.

This cancellation policy is written in Tourism Council's website as 100% non refundable at 30 days prior to start of tour, as TCB stated to Mr. Cohn. Mr. Cohn's claim to being any experienced traveler makes me wonder why he did not ask for the cancellation policies. I believe experienced travelers do ask this question, even tho' they may not have any reason to believe they will need to cancel--just a routine question that experienced travelers go through.

When Mr. Cohn cancelled their trip, 5 days after the start date, Norphel Tours sent the cancellation policy of TCB to him, but they acceptance of the cancellation policy. During that 5 day period before his cancellation, expenses already incurred by Norphel Tours included the payments made to concerned companies ( Guide, two mountain bikes, hotel, vans, etc. ) Guide, vans, bike waited for 5 days at Paro Airport (The company is located in another town, Thimphu).

When we were likewise stranded in Bangkok, Lemo sent many emails. some of which I was able to retreive in our Bangkok hotel, to suggest using alternate routes from BKK to Paro. All involved travel to other airports to start the trip and were too costly for us, so we waited until the BKK airport opened. In 5 days, it did, and we flew into Paro from Bangkok. Mr. Cohn chose to cancel instead. But in the thinking of Norphel tours, the suggestions were made for ways to reach Bhutan in other ways. Therefore, her crew was waiting for them at the Paro Airport for 5 days, at her expense.) In our case, we alerted Lemo by email that it was too expensive for us to try to get there via Delhi and we would wait to get out of Bangkok. We got a refund for the missing 5 days in Bhutan, minus some non-refundable deposits. On our now shortened trip (from 17 nights to 12 nights), Norphel was truly flexible and creative in providing for us the highlights of our planned trip, including the high quality hotels and restaurants we had previously arranged for. Because of all they did, some of my group expressed surprise at the refunds we received, and noone begrudged the non-refundable deposits.

For my own 3 travels with Norphel Company, this cancellation policy was crystal clear because we made our reservations a year in advance in 2006 and 10 months in advance in 2007. Because of the very limited number of seats on Druk Airlines, the only airline that goes to Bhutan, we chose to make our payments to secure our seats, as soon as the airlines announced the particular flights (BKK to Calcutta to Paro, Bhutan). We were obligated to send our payments for the air tickets 30 days after booking, and chose to include our land payments at that time, and our total payments were wired over to the Bank of Bhutan about 10 or 11 months before we started our trip. Never before had I sent total payments so far in advance of a trip, however, the arrangements were very clearly explained, to our satisfaction. We knew the moneys would be held for dispersal to the tour operator after the gov't tourism taxes were paid, and as payments for hotel and other reservations were needed. There are many expenditures made by the tour company prior to our arrival (eg. even the bottle of water apiece provided each day on the van or bus); not even considering the many hours spent in arranging hotel, dining, excursion dates, etc., etc. So, a cancellation is very expensive for the tour company, and when the cancellation is as late as Mr. Cohn's was, a lot of money had been already spent. (One person out of the 20 in 2006 had to cancel her trip, and she received her full refund, because it was before the 30 day deadline.)

Despite Mr. Cohn's allegations, Tour operator and Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) have been in close communication since the start. Although TCB clearly stated to Mr. Cohn that the cancellation policy is 100% non-refundable as according to their website, and because of the Bangkok Airport closure, TCB allowed a refund (I believe of 80% of the fare). This resulted in losses for the tour company

According to Lemo, TCB did the best to negotiate, and even though Norphel took some losses, Mr. Cohn was still not satisfied. After he received the refund, he then got on the internet and started his campaign against Norphel Co.
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dntfckwitme
post Apr 10 2009, 01:36 AM
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It’s easy to discount my personal experiences and try to discredit my post as angry or cheap or vindictive simply because you feel the need to defend someone or this company. Unfortunately, and again, nothing in your long post really refutes the facts. You are uniquely qualified to share your experiences, however you are not qualified to criticize or comment about the details of my experience solely on the basis of information provided to you by a third party — especially a third party that feels my post may be damaging to their reputation. It’s also not ethical to use what you believe to be my name rather than my user name, for you really have no idea who I am, but is an obvious attempt to somehow harm me. Your apparent desire to paint the tour operator as victim is absurd. Most of your post is about you and not about the facts in this case and what you claim is a VERY different story is not really that different after all.

The crux of this case is about transparency and honesty and whether it is acceptable for a company to invoke conditions without prior approval by both the client and the company. Evidently the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) also feels this is unacceptable.

If I changed the terms of business with a client after the fact or claimed it was incumbent upon them to know the details of how I would do business with them they would not only show me the door but my reputation would be greatly harmed. Perhaps in your field as a “travel planner” this is different and you can simply change the terms of your service and business to suit each condition but I seriously doubt it. Then again you obviously operate at a very high end of the market leading groups on 17 day tours through Bhutan (twice the average visit), so perhaps your clients don’t notice or mind the sudden loss of a thousand dollars here or there.

Either the tourism business in Bhutan is run to accepted international standards or it’s not. My particular experience, and not yours, has shown me that this particular company does not follow such standards. The purpose of my post is to warn people that this can occur, to be aware of such possibilities and to understand that the authorities (TCB) do not have legal authority to mitigate disputes.

Your ranting about the details of my trip, which you really know nothing about, compels me to correct your miss-information.

First of all, our trip was booked 30 days prior to arrival, is listed as the acceptable minimum period for booking and not objected to by the proprietor of Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks. There was never an issue about the booking period.

The Bangkok airport was closed for 8 days before limited operations began on day 9 and not 5 as implied by your post. Anyone that cares to check can easily go to the Suvarnabhumi web site. Booked on a 9-day trip that covers this exact period, perhaps even you can see that we were prevented from making the trip by the airport closure. We did not have the luxury of simply using the remnants of remaining days as you did because there were none left. And of course, it’s interesting to note that you somehow received refunds on the 5 days you missed. According to you, all of that payment should have been forfeited.

We were present well before our flight booking and remained in Bangkok at considerable added expense, all in an effort to continue on our trip. Thus, it is clearly debatable whether or not one could classify our inability to get to Bhutan as a cancellation.

While stranded in Bangkok we were in constant contact with Lemo by both phone and e-mail. We were desperately trying to see if there were ways we could somehow extend our timing or even shorten our trip, anything just to get to Bhutan. Discussions with Lemo were fine at this point, however despite your assertion, there was never a suggestion made by Norphel Tours of alternate methods for traveling to Bhutan. Having her crew wait at Paro was a decision made purely by Lemo and one that we were not a party to. With over 350,000 stranded tourists and a deteriorating political situation, the means for getting out of Bangkok were becoming more and more limited.

With no clear sign of resolution to the airport closure, and with very little time left on our scheduled trip, we felt it was in our best interest to find a way back home. We did not have the luxury of waiting any longer and informed Lemo that we couldn’t see a way to make the trip. Perhaps you will find it interesting to note that all trains were now over-booked for weeks and ultimately settled on a 12-hour bus ride to reach an airport in southern Thailand.

It was only when we informed Lemo of this decision that she invoked a cancellation clause and demanded forfeiture of 50% of our payment. We were shocked and surprised by this. And, it was only through our asking that she finally produced, for the first time, a policy covering cancellations, 10 days after our trip was scheduled to commence.

Despite our efforts to arrive at a reasonable solution for both parties — and certainly both parties incurred additional unanticipated expenses — Lemo seemed only concerned with recouping her costs, and refused to discuss the matter further.

It was at this point, Lemo’s refusal to discuss the situation further, and under the advice of two other Tour Operators as well as a colleague that had lived for many years in Bhutan, that we sought the assistance of the Tourism Council of Bhutan.

In the absence of a cancellation policy that was clearly stipulated and agreed to, and in the face of extraordinary circumstances that prevented both the Tour Operator and the client from fulfilling their obligations it seems unfair to hold the client totally responsible for all expenses.

I never made any allegations about communications between the Tour Operator and the TCB, however, the reality is the TCB “persuaded” Lemo to reduce her seizure of our payment. It is disingenuous to imply that the TCB “allowed” a refund of 80% when, in fact, the TCB expressed to Lemo that they felt the refund should be 100%, as evidenced from a portion of an e-mail from the Joint Director of the Tourism Council of Bhutan to me outlining the end result of their meeting with Lemo:

“It is also unfortunate that the TCB does not have the legal authority to arbitrate and can only persuade and negotiate. We have tried to persuade the TO to refund the entire amount . . .”[/b]

The implication is clear that if the TCB actually had legal authority they would have forced the tour operator to issue the refund.

It is not the responsibility of the client to know a company’s cancellation policy. It is the responsibility of every reputable company to transparently and openly stipulate their terms of business. This is true of any business. A business that invokes new, and stringent, terms of business after accepting payment and without prior notification is, in my mind, dishonest and quite unprofessional.

You claim that anyone familiar with travel would know that there would be a cancellation policy. Huh? Are we to guess just what this policy is? Can we choose the terms that are convenient to us? No, of course not. That is why it is incumbent upon the tour operator to transparently and honestly notify and have the client agree to the terms of business in advance and in writing.

In my experience, every other agent that I have worked with has always clearly stipulated their terms of business and, thus, there are no surprises. The fact is that Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks never issued any documentation concerning any contractual details including cancellation policies. Nor did they have client/agent sign off on any terms of business. Our mistake was assuming that this was just the way things were done in Bhutan.

Following further, you are free to examine their web site and, under tariff and payment details, there is no detailing of their cancellation policy — not even a mention or link to the TCB policy.

Despite the dispersions you seemingly want to cast upon my character and my motives, the main reason for my post is to alert those “uninformed persons” you refer to from falling into a similar trap. Bookings are made directly with the Tour Operator, bypassing the TCB site altogether. In fact, and because of this case, the TCB understands that these policies are not clearly stipulated uniformly to all clients and has now directed TOs to make their cancellation policies clear before bookings are completed, as evidenced from the following quote from an e-mail to me from the TCB:

“We’ve asked all TOs to share their cancellation policies with all their potential clients before any visit is finalized in order to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future.”[b]

Redirecting responsibility to unearth a company’s cancellation policy to the client is inexcusable. And your application of reverse logic, that had Lemo actually conducted her business properly, and informed her clients of her cancellation policy would have meant a bigger forfeiture is laughable.

I’m thankful that the Tourism Council of Bhutan showed a great deal of integrity and did their best to do the right thing. It’s unfortunate that the proprietor of Bhutan Norphel Tours & Treks chose to do otherwise. How this affects their reputation will be their ultimate cost and their responsibility.
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gobhutan
post Jun 27 2009, 05:12 PM
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I understand your frustration of being caught up in the Bangkok airport closure that prevented you from traveling to Bhutan. However, your frustration is misdirected at Norphel Tours & Treks. I have had the pleasure of traveling in Bhutan with Norphel services twice. The first time was a road tour and the second was an eight-day trek (returning through Bangkok just a few days prior to its closure). Both times the service was excellent with the highest quality staff to assist during the tours. In addition, the owner of Norphel Tours & Treks is one of the kindness individuals and most generous with her time and knowledge of the country and its culture. Again, I understand your frustration, but Norphel incurred losses due to your unfortunate transportation problem from Bangkok. I feel under the circumstances Norphel was most generous in their refund policy considering the expenses they incurred from the very unfortunate situation that both of you suffered from with neither to blame. There is a level of risk in all travel from sickness, weather, delays, theft, accidents, cancellations, etc. It might be wise to consider travel insurance in the future to defray the impact of unexpected circumstances such as occurred in this case with the closure of the Bangkok airport.
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