Duma legislates on travel agencies

Russian travel agencies will be made to adopt more financial and legal responsibility for their customers, according to a new bill adopted by the State Duma on Friday. The bill caused controversy among tourist operators.

Under the draft law travel agencies will have to leave a security deposit, to be used if anything goes wrong for clients on holiday. This would safeguard tourists form irresponsible or dishonest operators.

Travel agencies will also have to register on one Federal List of tour operators. All companies failing to register before the second of April will lose their licenses.

But the bill caused protests from small and middle-sized travel companies, which organized a rally in Moscow during the second reading in the State Duma. They demand for the bill to be reconsidered . As they claim, it would destroy their livelihood. Big players could benefit, they say, but hundreds of honest travel companies could be damaged and thousands of Russian tourists affected.

Following a long debate in the Duma, the bill was adopted, with some important amendments.

The amount companies dealing with domestic travel will have to leave as guarantee was reduced to RUR 500,000, or about $US 7,000, while those dealing with international tourism will have to put up RUR 10 MLN, or $US 350,000,annually.

The legislation is expected to come into effect on January 1, 2007.