Keys and suggestions to avoid being scammed when booking or contracting a trip – Business – 08/28/2022

The untimely closure of the travel agency trans-hotel He left several tourists who had scheduled and paid trips without an answer or refund. From the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur) estimate that the economic damage amounts to approximately $500,000 and the complaints against the company amounted to 230 so far.

Despite the talk of a scam, from the Mintur and the Uruguayan Association of Travel Agencies (Audavi) pointed out to El País that Transhotel’s situation is “very particular” given that the agency met the necessary requirements to operate: it was registered with the Mintur, had an up-to-date guarantee and had no banking problems.

“In case of trans-hotel It is a very punctual one, it is not an endemic issue at all, we have not heard of any other case of travel agencies in the country that are going wrong. Moreover, the agencies are on a growth curve that is already very close to the production of what they had in 2019, prior to the pandemic. There are companies that the pandemic may have hit more than others, I think that could have happened in the case of Transhotel and perhaps poor management of the company”, reflected the president of Audavi, Carlos Pera.

If the travel agency is not registered, the Mintur will not be able to respond or solve possible fraud or scams.

“This case is different from other agencies that have left the country. In this case, the company authorities were trying to fix (the situation) with the passengers until the last day, but the wave overwhelmed them,” Mintur sources indicated.

So how can people avoid this type of situation? What elements should be taken into account when booking a tour package? How can risks be mitigated when scheduling a trip?In this Pocket FinanceMintur authorities and tour operators made their recommendations.

REGISTRATION. The first thing to keep in mind before buying a tourist package in a travel agency is to verify that it is registered in the Mintur registry of tour operators. To do so, the person may enter the Ministry’s website and access the list of travel agencies authorized to operate in the country.

If the travel agency is not registered, the Mintur will not be able to respond or solve possible fraud or scams.

WARRANTY. For travel agencies to be registered with the Mintur, they must meet a number of requirements: documentation, financial statements and guarantees.

As Pera explained, each travel agency -regardless of its size- must annually renew its guarantee before the Mintur and to do so, it must present “the financial statements, the balance of the company and in some cases even real guarantees so that they give it that endorsement”, indicated the president of Audavi.

That guarantee —which in the case of Transhotel was about US$180,000, the maximum required by the Mintur from travel agencies— is calculated based on the level of sales of each company and is the money that the portfolio can use as “ insurance” to solve cases of non-compliance such as these.

avoid fraud

Verify reservation vouchers and tickets

The president of Audavi, Carlos Pera explained that another element to consider to avoid fraud when traveling is to verify the validity of the tickets purchased, the vouchers and the reservation tickets. “If I buy an air ticket, in a reasonable time I should receive a copy of the ticket” to the email; “The same thing happens with the services, if I bought transfers, or a hotel and paid for it in full, I can have the possibility of requesting that the corresponding voucher be given to me,” explained Pera.

“Having the air ticket in your possession, if you are one of those people who are very suspicious of the travel agency, you have the possibility of calling the airline, giving them the ticket code, the name and the rest of the data so that the airline corroborate if the reservation is well done or not”, indicated the president of Audavi.

TRUST AND TRAJECTORY. Both from the Mintur, as well as from Audavi and other travel agencies, they told El País that in addition to verifying that the company is duly registered, the second most important thing is its credibility and trajectory in the market.

“You should always choose a well-known travel agency that is trusted by the buyer, that knows where its offices are physically located and who runs the company,” Pera explained.

NETWORK MONITORING. In line with this, from the Mintur they recommend “monitoring” travel agencies and operators, through social networks and tourist review platforms such as tripadvisor. “These platforms are useful to see the positive or negative experiences of people who have already traveled with that agency,” they explained from the Mintur.

OFFICIAL RESERVATIONS. The tour operators consulted by El País advised tourists that when reserving and booking an air ticket, a hotel or a tour package, verify that the web page effectively corresponds to the company’s official site. To make sure that the website is the official one, people can check the contact details (address, phone, email) posted and contact them directly.

“very little consistency in reliability”

Avoid social media offers

The president of Audavi and other travel agencies pointed out that the vast majority of scams in the tourism sector have to do with offers made through social networks, which are attractive to people due to their low prices compared to the rest of the market. “There are many offers on Facebook that offer trips and excursions for low prices, but you buy from a person who you don’t know who he is, who you don’t know where he is and who doesn’t appear in any address, the only thing there is is a cell phone. This type of proposal is really of very little consistency in terms of reliability, so I recommend discarding it outright,” Pera said.

WEB PAGE. In addition to verifying that the online site is the official one of the company, the operators recommend that people review the URL of the page and make sure that it begins with https. or that a gray padlock appears in the address bar, which allows you to know the data of that site and avoid fraudulent web pages.

DO NOT PAY IN FULL. In the case of online accommodation reservations, some tour operators recommend that people do not pay the entire fee before arriving at the place, but only pay the requested sign and then pay the rest upon arrival at the accommodation.

However, Pera explained that this cannot be done in tour packages that include airfare, since the travel agency needs the money to freeze the price of the fare and ensure a place on the plane.

What are the tools available to report scams?

Complaints must be made before the Mintur

Tourism in Europe.  Photo: Pixabay

Those people who wish to report travel agencies or other tour operators must do so before the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur), although they may also do so before the Consumer Defense and before the Justice.

As a result of what happened with Transhotel, days ago the Minister of Tourism, Tabaré Viera, stated at a press conference: “We recommend that you file a complaint with the Ministry, where there is a registry of operators and regulations.”

In this sense, the victims can report their particular situation to the Mintur through the following channels: by sending an email to the following address: [email protected]; through the online procedure option (www.gub.uy/tramites/denuncia-queja-servicios-turisticos) or in person at the document administration office from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In all situations, it is recommended to attach the evidentiary elements (invoices, transfers, receipts) and there a file is started that goes to the registry of operators so that it informs the registry situation of the operator and prepares the form to send to the Insurance Bank for purposes of Report each complaint separately.

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