avoid scams

ASATA in the news – Beware scammers derailing your holidays

ASATA is featuring its members in the news on a regular basis to comment on important issues in the travel industry. If you would like to be included among the travel consultants that comment or have a story where you’ve saved the day, please contact us on asata@bigambitions.co.za.

The following story appeared on IOL this week and tells consumers why it’s important to book with an ASATA accredited travel agent.

Beware scammers derailing your holidays

How does seven days in Mauritius, including five-star accommodation, airport-hotel transfers and return flights including taxes sound for R10,000? In a word – unrealistic. Yet, the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA) is contacted regularly by consumers whose holiday plans have gone awry because they booked a holiday package that was simply too good to be true, or were scammed and defrauded by a travel provider.

“We see the level of complaints rise in the run-up to school holidays. It is unfortunate that consumers are prepared to pay thousands to travel providers they have not verified, yet when they purchase any other high-ticket item, greater concern seems to be given to verify the supplier thereof,” said ASATA, the CEO Otto de Vries.

Otto cites a recent report released in the EU which shows that two-thirds of travel booking websites provide misleading information on prices. The report indicates that in the EU, a fifth of websites display promotional offers that are not really available, and a quarter of websites also mislead consumers by saying there are only a limited number of seats or rooms available at a specific price.

“Travel fraud does exist so before handing over your hard-earned cash or credit card details to someone, it is vital that you research them so you can ensure you are dealing with a well-established and reputable company – typically a provider that is IATA and ASATA accredited,” says Mithas Travel Marketing Manager Aneesa Mitha.

It is very important to use a reputable travel agency, agrees Sure Travel 24-7 Consultant Director, Taryn Agliotti. “Agencies that belong to ASATA have to reach certain criteria to become members, which means they have standards they need to uphold. They work with reliable partners and operators to get travellers the best deals and also offer safe, secure methods of payment which goes a long way towards preventing fraud,” he said.

Nicole Poupard from iGo Travel provides this advice to travellers: “Avoid companies who ask for your credit card details and passport copies before they have quoted you, and look for reviews on their social media page. If you want to take it one step further, look at the quantity of those reviews over the period of time that the social media page has been active.”


Insist on ASATA-accredited travel providers. 

Also Important to note is the supplier that your travel agent is acquiring their travel from. Angela Wood, marketing manager Thompsons Holidays, says the best course when planning a holiday is an ASATA-registered travel agent who will be familiar with reputable service providers that are ASATA-registered wholesalers.”

The Travel Corporation MD South Africa, Theresa Szejwallo, agreed. “We work closely with our travel agent partners in South Africa to ensure they are given the support they need to provide flawless holidays for their customers. In addition to our 70 years’ of experience in guided holidays and initiatives like our rand guarantee, we are proud ASATA members and comply with the association’s Code of Conduct and Constitution so that we can assure our travel agent partners and consumers that if they travel the Trafalgar way, they can travel with peace of mind that they have entrusted their holiday in the hands of an ASATA member.”

Look out for the ASATA logo on websites and adverts, cautions Alet Steyn, General Manager Wendy Wu. “Customers need to be very cautious. Look for red lights like if there is an urgency for payment and you need to give your credit card details over the phone to secure your reservation quickly. Always verify banking details on the invoice given and do proper research, reading through the terms and conditions thoroughly.”


Identity theft threat

According to Louise Tordiffe, spokesperson of the South African Bank Risk Information Centre (SABRIC), what often happens is that criminals set up bogus websites offering specials on certain gifts, from holiday accommodation to air tickets.

“The victim will then click on the website as it looks professional and the cost appears to be cheap. The victim purchases using their credit card details thinking they are buying from a genuine company. The purchase goes through but the victim never receives the goods as the website was fake. The criminals then have access to bank customer’s bank details and can use it fraudulently including stealing the identity of the victim,” explains Louise.


How consumers can protect themselves:

* Do not trust websites you do not know

*Ensure that you are on a secure website and not a ‘spoof’ site by clicking on the security icon on your browser tool bar to see that the URL begins with https rather than http

*Don’t fall for offers that are available at a very cheap price. If it seems to be too good to be true, they usually are.

*Do not send emails that quote your card number and expiry date

*Never click on a link when requested to confirm your banking or personal details

ASATA in the News – 5 Things that a travel agent can do for you that Siri can’t

ASATA often features its members in the news to remind consumers of the value a travel consultant can bring. If you would like to be included among the travel consultants that comment or have a story where you’ve saved the day, please contact us on asata@bigambitions.co.za.

The following story appeared in Traveller24 last week and tells consumers exactly what a travel agent can do for them that Siri will never be able to do.

5 Things that a travel agent ‘can do for you that Siri can’t’

Cape Town – Siri, Alexis, Pana. These artificial intelligence ladies have one thing in common… they are all rumoured to be to be ‘the next travel agent that you can easily fit into your pocket’.

They all promise to effortlessly and instantly book your travels at the click of a button on your smartphone or smartwatch. What’s more, they say they will listen to your and ‘understand’ your travel intent, making suggestions on possible holiday destinations.

But can these virtual ladies replace the ‘real flesh’ travel agent? We chatted to a few agents affiliated to the Association of South African Travel Agents (ASATA) to find out what they can do, that Siri (or Alexis or Pana) can’t.

1. Land you the best seats in the house

Sure, Siri can search the Internet for the best restaurants and the best seats on the plane, but can she get you that ‘impossible to get’ reservation or secure you that very best seat?

Mandy McEvoy of Club Travel Westlake uses her relationship with airline representatives to obtain the best seats for special clients. “I sometimes even get them a free pass to the business class lounge if they have a very long transit,” she says. We’d like to see Siri try…

“I will always use my knowledge to land clients the best seats in the house,” says Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town. Did you know for example that Emirates Airlines allows clients who are registered with Skywards to be pre-seated without paying for it or having to wait until 48 hours prior to departure? Did Siri ever tell you that?

2. Give you advice from first-hand experience

Did Siri ever buy a sarong from the market in Thailand? Can she tell you which beach vendor has the best fares? Did she ever go for breakfast in Paris? Can she tell you where you can eat the most delicious croissants?

Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town explains she loves helping her clients get a feel for the destination by showing them pictures of her trips to the destination and give them advice from first-hand experience.

3. Help you make informed decisions

Is New York really the best destination for your next family trip? Is it safe? Will the city keep the kids entertained? Will you be able to get a visa in time?

“Siri cannot guarantee peace of mind or informed decision making, travel advisors can,” says Robyn Daneel-Spicer of Sure Stellenbosch Travel. “With personal experience in travel having travelled to many destinations, training in those destinations and working with travel related issues on a regular basis, travellers can rest assured that they are getting the best advice based on many levels of expertise.”

4. Re-assure you in times of emergency

“I-am-sorry-I-do-not-understand-please-help-me-my-flight-is-cancelled’ is the last thing you want to hear from your personal assistant in times of emergency.

When clients are stuck in Turkey due to bad weather conditions, they want to talk to a real-life person for advice on where to go, what to do and who can assist them on the ground, explains Carla Nichols from Club Travel Cape Town.

5. Travel with Peace of Mind

Although Siri is a clever lady, it seems there are still a few things she can’t do, and one of them is helping you travel with Peace of Mind…. Only an ASATA travel agent can help you do that.


ASATA CEO wins Business Traveller Africa award

ASATA CEO Otto de Vries has won the Business Traveller Africa Business Travel Personality of the Year award for the third year in a row.

“Winning the award for the third time is a humbling experience both for myself and for the ASATA team, and I’m very honoured to accept this Award on behalf of the entire team,” says Otto de Vries, CEO.

Otto explains ASATA operates with a small team of five staff but is involved in all areas that directly or indirectly affect the trade and the ability of travel agents to do their work.

“Our team has been active on all issues that have affected the trade, from SAA to the Unabridged Birth Certificate, government procurement and dealings with Treasury. “However, we’ve also been proactive in ensuring that the trade continues to remain relevant. Our 21st Century Travel Agent Study is a prime example of that.

“In addition, consider our work with IATA on the ADM work group and our work with the APJC and many other projects, and you’ll get a sense of the profound impact on the industry and the sheer scale of work a small team can achieve.”

This Award will inspire ASATA to continue with its work and give its best for the industry. “Despite the challenges we face, this recognition from our peers clearly means we do something right,” he says.

South African Airways, Emirates, AHA, Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Tourvest Travel Services and Europcar also emerged as the big winners at the event, held in association with Absa at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg on 1 September 2016.

Both SAA and Emirates were ‘double’ winners, with SAA picking up the top award in the ‘Best African Regional Short-Haul Airline’ and ‘Best African Long-Haul Airline’ categories for the second year in a row. Also for the second year in a row, Emirates scooped the ‘Best Business Class’ Award, as well as the prize for the ‘Best International Long-Haul Airline’. Amadeus won the prize in the category of best GDS.

The ‘Best African Low-Cost Airline’ Award went to Comair’s Kulula for the second year, ahead of FlySafair, and Mango.

In the main hotel category, the ‘Best South African Hotel Group’ award went the way of AHA, taking over the torch from Tsogo Sun who received the award during the previous three years. Marriott walked away with the ‘Best International Hotel Group’ award, thanks in large to its significant South African presence through Protea. The Maslow Hotel was awarded with the award for the Best Business Hotel in South Africa.

This year, Carslon Wagonlit Travel was awarded ‘Best Travel Management Company’, edging out last year winner HRG Rennies Travel, as well as American Express Travel Services, BCD Travel and Travel with Flair.

Europcar scooped the ‘Best Car Rental Company’ title, holding off the challenge of Bidvest Car Rental, Avis, First and Hertz.

Launched in 2012 in association with Business Traveller Africa magazine, the awards ceremony is an event for the South African business travel trade, covering all aspects of business travel, including hotels, airlines, car rental and travel management, along with related categories such as travel credit card provider, foreign exchange, visas, private aviation and conferencing.

The full list of nominees and winners is as follows (in alphabetical order):

African Long-Haul Airline

  • Air Mauritius
  • Air Namibia
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Kenya Airways
  • SAA (winner)

African Low-Cost Airline

  • FlySafair
  • Kulula (winner)
  • Mango

African Regional Short-Haul Airline

  • Airlink
  • Comair (BA & Kulula)
  • Mango
  • SAA (winner)
  • SA Express

Airport Business Lounge

  • Emirates (ORTIA – International)
  • SAA Baobab (ORTIA – International)
  • SLOW Lounge (ORTIA – Domestic)
  • SLOW Lounge (ORTIA – International) (winner)
  • Virgin Atlantic (ORTIA – International)

Business Class

  • British Airways
  • Emirates (winner)
  • Etihad
  • Qatar Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic

Business Hotel in SA

  • African Pride Crystal Towers
  • African Pride Melrose Arch
  • The Maslow Hotel (winner)
  • The Westin Cape Town

Car Rental Company

  • Avis
  • Bidvest Car Rental
  • Europcar (winner)
  • First Car Rental
  • Hertz

Forex Supplier

  • American Express Foreign Exchange (winner)
  • American Express Global Card
  • Bidvest Bank

Global Distribution System

  • Amadeus (winner)
  • Sabre
  • Travelport

International Hotel Group

  • Four Seasons
  • Hilton
  • Hyatt
  • Marriott (winner)
  • Starwood

International Long-Haul Airline

  • British Airways
  • Emirates (winner)
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • Virgin Atlantic

Large Conference Venue

  • Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre
  • Cape Town International Convention Centre (winner)
  • Century City Conference Centre
  • International Convention Centre Durban
  • Sandton Convention Centre

Large Hotel Conference Venue

  • Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre
  • Century City Conference Centre
  • Indaba Hotel and Conference Centre
  • The Westin Cape Town (winner)

Luxury Hotel in SA

  • Michelangelo Hotel
  • One&Only Cape Town
  • Oyster Box (winner)
  • The Palazzo Hotel
  • Twelve Apostles

Private Aviation Operator

  • Comair Flight Services (winner)
  • ExecuJet
  • Federal Air
  • NAC

Small Conference Venue

  • FNB Conference Centre
  • The Forum Campus (winner)
  • The Forum Turbine Hall

Small Hotel Conference Venue

  • African Pride Melrose Arch
  • Sandton Lodge Rivonia
  • Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa (winner)

South African Hotel Group

  • AHA (winner)
  • City Lodge Hotels
  • Legacy Hotels & Resorts
  • Sun International
  • Tsogo Sun

Travel Credit Card Provider

  • American Express (winner)
  • Diners Club
  • MasterCard
  • Visa

Travel Management Company

  • American Express Travel Services
  • BCD Travel
  • Carlson Wagonlit Travel (winner)
  • HRG Rennies Travel
  • Travel with Flair

Travel Sales Team

  • Europcar
  • Thompsons Travel
  • Tourvest Travel Services (winner)

Visa Service Provider

  • MDS VisaPak
  • Visas & Passports Unlimited
  • Visas Direct
  • Visa Express
  • Visas International (winner)