Tales of travel fraud have once again hit the press this week with ITC Elize Raath making headlines for allegedly taking payment for and failing to book a group of Krugersdorp school children on a tour of Ireland, Spain and Portugal.
Earlier this year, a bogus travel agent was involved in an online discount air ticket scam and was charged for conspiracy to commit fraud. And in December last year, hundreds of South Africans, most of them expats living in London, were caught in an e-ticketing scam allegedly perpetrated by Kim Robbertse, an independent travel agent in Polokwane.
Travellers’ preferred travel booking methods hinge greatly on the trust they they have in the booking channel they’re using and fraudsters, whether they are posing as travel agents, or are in fact travel agents, bring the entire travel industry into disrepute and weaken the trust that travellers have in travel agents as a booking channel.
In the midst of this bad publicity, now more than ever it falls to ASATA and its members to drive the mantra of ‘Travel with Peace of Mind’ when booking with an ASATA member. Our new slogan and consumer campaign is being rolled out and a new marketing toolkit with collateral will be available on the website for members to use soon.
One must remember that as an unregulated industry, anyone can start a so-called travel agency. ASATA remains a voluntary body and it is therefore crucial that our members stand behind the ASATA brand, promote it and proudly display it in their communications and marking strategies. We need to tell our customers what being an ASATA member means for them.
A key selling point of using an ASATA member is that they comply with a strict code of conduct that enforces proper business practices and it is essential that members use this credibility to communicate that they are a trustworthy booking channel because of the stringent requirements placed on our members to run legitimate travel businesses.
It must be noted that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of enquiries our office receives on a daily basis, asking if the agency they are about to engage is an ASATA member. Our awareness in the consumer space is growing, to the benefit of our members and the consumers.