Overbooking practices should be reviewed to protect consumers in Singapore's tourism and hospitality industry, said Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) president Melvin Yong in a Facebook post on Sunday (Sep 11).
This comes after more than 100 customers were denied boarding cruise ship Genting Dream on Sep 4 due to overbooking.
There is currently no regulation for the practice of overbooking and how affected consumers should be compensated, wrote Mr Yong, adding that consumers can rely only on conditions of carriage or insurance coverage, which may not be entirely be in their favour.
Conditions of carriage refer to the terms and conditions cited by transportation companies for using their services.
Mr Yong wrote: "It is perhaps timely for the relevant authorities and service providers to review the practice of overbooking and how consumers can be protected in our tourism and hospitality industry in Singapore."
The authorities should consider regulating how affected customers should be compensated, as is the case in the United States and Europe, he added.
In overbooking, more tickets are sold than seats available, as service providers in the tourism and hospitality industry expect some clients to not show up.
In the Sep 4 incident, the Genting Dream was due to depart Singapore on that day for calls at Port Klang and Penang before returning to Singapore.
It can accommodate 3,352 passengers.
A Resorts World Cruises (RWC) spokesman had said that all affected guests will receive a full refund. They will also get a complimentary cruise on the Genting Dream for sailings before Apr 28, 2023, subject to cabin availability.
"While the practice of overbooking is not unusual, this could not have come at a worse time for affected consumers," wrote Mr Yong.
The offer of a full refund and a complimentary cruise may not address the concerns of some consumers who had taken leave and were expecting to have a good vacation with friends and family, he noted.
This is because the incident came amid Singapore relaxing its Covid-19 measures and the September school holidays.
Service providers like RWC should review the accuracy of their back-end algorithms that may be based on outdated data, Mr Yong added.
They should also cater for a bigger buffer in the light of peak holiday seasons, as well as the pent-up demand for vacations after more than 2 years of Covid-19 travel restrictions, he wrote.
Affected consumers can approach Case via hotline on 9795-8397 or visit Case's website for advice.
RWC, one of two cruise lines operating in Singapore, started sailings on Jun 15.
Genting Dream was previously used by Genting Hong Kong-owned Dream Cruises before Genting Hong Kong collapsed due to financial troubles. THE STRAITS TIMES