Once again I see to my dismay that many people have been robbed of their hard-earned money by a bogus Travel Agency. Their hopes and dreams of a well-deserved vacation, one that they may have been saving many years for have been dashed by an entity that for all the world seemed to be legitimate and operating on far too large a scale to be fraudulent. I won’t mention names but it has been all over the news recently. According to one report “The Travel Agency, which promised dream vacations to the Maldives is alleged to have failed to fulfil its financial obligations. Disturbingly, reports indicate that the company continued to accept bookings and payments even as the situation unfolded!” In simplified terms, the agent was taking people’s money in advance on the promise of a great package and then spending the money prior to their departure. The case continues and who knows exactly where it will end but it is already not a happy ending for those who have been duped.
Seemingly convincing – and not the first
Sadly this is certainly not the first time such scams have occurred and it won’t be the last. There have been several fly-by-nights and fraudulent operators over the years and incredulously, people still fall for the same scams. Admittedly, this particular operator appeared to be operating on a grand scale, had celebrity endorsements and even partnered with a well know local radio station. What the public really needs to learn however is that the razzle-dazzle and great deals being offered (especially if they seem too good to be true) are simply not enough when it comes to paying out large sums of money on your next vacation. The glaring mistake that this agency’s clients made is that they chose to ignore the fact that it was not an accredited agency!
What are prudent precautions?
My purpose for the writing of this article is to hopefully avoid this kind of heartache for many others in the future and so let me suggest a few important things to do whenever you choose an agency with which to partner for your travel arrangements. Firstly do a little background checking if you have not heard of the agency before and they have not, to your knowledge, been around for a long time. The very first thing to look for is whether they are an ASATA (Association of South African Travel Agencies) accredited agency.
Why is this?
Well, ASATA themselves have a rigid screening process to ensure that all their affiliated agencies are legitimate – and this includes background checks, referrals and even demanding a set of financials. The latter condition is an essential one as it assures the public that the agency to which you are committing sometimes extraordinarily large amounts of money is financially sound! In the case of the BidTravel group, all our ITC (independent Travel Consultants) are vetted and ASATA affiliated. An additional accreditation, usually afforded only to agencies who have been around for some time, is with IATA not as easy to register for as it’s about ticketing, but it certainly gives one even greater peace of mind to know that an agency is at that level. At least ensure that the ASATA-accredited independent agency you are dealing with operates their ticketing through an IATA-accredited agency.
Keep your ears to the ground
In this age of Google and Social Media platforms that deal specifically with travel advice and reviews check what kind of reviews the agency you are dealing with is receiving. As a matter of interest, before they closed there were “Hello Peter” complaints about this agency so people were warned and this should have set off alarm bells for those who were about to hand over massive amounts of money. Sadly hindsight is little comfort when your dream vacation has gone out the window, so I sincerely hope that this article has gone some way to convincing you to take precautions and make better choices in the future. When in doubt, deal with renowned, accredited Agencies. In a world where corruption is rife and it feels like everything is a gamble, that is your best bet!
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER