Cases of rogue agents taking advantage of innocent holiday goers are very rampant. Many tales have been told of people who planned for holidays, saved up for months, anticipated and excitedly counted down the days to rest and relaxation only to end up teary eyed, stranded at an airport or strange venue with no clue of what to do next.
In October 22, 2019, The Mirror, a newspaper in the United Kingdom reported of a rogue agent who scammed tourists out of 30, 000 Pounds which is approximately Kes. 3.9 million through fake flight tickets.
Mr Chetan Pal Panesar was reportedly jailed after taking money from his unsuspecting clients through his company E- Tickets Worldwide Limited. Many conned travellers ended up arriving at airports with packed bags only to find that there were no tickets and their agent was nowhere to be found.
“One mother was taking her daughter to spend Christmas with her grandmother only to arrive at Heathrow Airport to find Panesar had pocketed her cash. Another customer booked and paid for return flights to Jamaica for him and his children only to find they were cancelled by Panesar while he was in the Caribbean. He was left stranded and forced to borrow money to fly his family home,” the article read.
Back home, a man was arrested in January this year by Kenyan detectives for allegedly making away with money from Hajj goers who were planning the pilgrimage for August 2019.
Nur Hassan Abdi was accused of defrauding the elderly travellers of over Kes. 7 million. He was arrested as he attempted to cross the border to Somalia.
“Abdi Noor Hassan also known as “Korio” duped 30 pilgrims who paid him amount ranging from sh350,000 to sh600,000 to facilitate their travel documents and return ticket. On the day of flight to Saudi Arabia, victims were left stranded in Nairobi without money, passports and the rogue travel agents in sight,” the article published by Kulan Post read.
The elderly men who were looking forward to the Hajj Pilgrimage in Mecca ended up stranded in Nairobi as suspected rogue agent disappeared with their money and passports.
So bad had the situation become that it prompted the Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Hon. Najib Balala to put on notice all rogue agents running con games on unsuspecting travellers.
He stated that his ministry was investigating cases where tourists have lost money after being lured for holiday in Kenya.
“Our attention has been drawn to media reports on defrauding of tourists, wishing to visit Magical Kenya, by unscrupulous and bogus tour agents. Indeed, several such reports, like the ones that have appeared in our local dailies, have reached our offices,” he said.
Should such a situation happen, it is always best to report the matter to the police for them to take proper action. With proper evidence, the rogue culprits end up behind bars, paying for their sins as seen in the above instances. To avoid being caught up in such a situation, it is always best to conduct proper research on an agent before engaging them.
This is the main reason why the Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) encourages the public to always engage a KATA certified agent while making travel plans.
“These cases increase during peak holiday seasons. We can only encourage the public to look up certified agents as they are guided by a strict code of conducts and have integrity and professionalism as they go about their business,” KATA CEO Ms Agnes Mucuha stated.
She pointed out that the association’s hands are tied in such instances and cannot intervene in cases that do not involve their members. Mostly, she emphasised, such agents are not registered and are evasive.
“Such unfortunate experiences should however not deter a traveller. Travel is a crucial part of life. We cannot avoid travelling, the best we can do is travel wisely by engaging a trusted KATA agent,” she advised.
Travel agents are sought after because they make travel easier for the traveller. Travel agents are experts at planning travel and are best placed to advise on offers and promotions, best venues and flights and generally ensure that their clients get the best experience from their travel.
A traveller saves a lot of time as the ground work which is the research on destinations, bookings, flights are done by the agent. This further reduces stress for the traveller.
A travel agent is able to offer expert advice and in the occurrence of the unexpected for instance flight cancellations or delays, or inconveniences at the vacation location, a travel agent is able to intervene and resolve the situation.
KATA is mandated to promote highest code of professional standards for its members while dealing with their clients as the National Association representing travel agents in Kenya.