As a rule, most travel agents are well-trained, competent professionals who work hard for you. But there are exceptions to every rule... If you visit your local travel agent or book with an online travel agent, it’s typically a genuine and honest transaction. Using a travel agency is a quick, easy and straightforward way of organizing your next adventure. However, it is important to make sure the agency you use is legitimate. How can you tell if your agent is a con? Here are signs you should watch out for.
1. HAS NO WEBSITE OR SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES.
Reputable safari companies in Kenya and around the world would have online presence; This is mostly by having a website (Key) or at least having social media pages such as Facebook page. However, please not that having a social media page ONLY should raise eye brows as a Facebook page can be easily created by anybody. If you are looking through the Facebook page, please take note of the reviews from clients and previous events and photos or the events (not downloaded photos). This should tell you if you can trust the agent.
2. HAS NO PHYSICAL OFFICE LOCATION
When booking for your trip, ensure you verify the physical location of the agent and if possible visit the office. Please note that some travel agents in Nairobi would Hire out rental offices whenever you inform them that you are visiting. You can give them a surprise visit! Apart from just having an office, take note of the branding and the furnishing.... This can tell you a lot.
Make sure the company you are booking with is licensed before you make any payment. Licenses such as the registration certificate, the county council licenses, membership and licenses from travel bodies such as Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA), Tourism Regulatory Authority (TRA), Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), Tour Operators Society of Kenya (TOSK) etc would give you credibility of ownership and trust in business. When an agent is just a free lancer has no certification and not a member of any body, run!
This peace of mind is priceless and ensures you can put your feet up before you even reach the airport.
4 CHECK THE VALUE FOR MONEY.
Ultra-cheap holiday packages can cause some people to question an agency. Although travel agencies often offer incredible deals and discounts, it is worth looking at finer details when you see prices well below the norm. Make sure the location of resort, flights, amenities, transfers and anything else that may be included match up to what you are looking for. A quick google search or look on Tripadvisor will give you a heads up to the quality of the resort, area, etc.
If possible, find someone you know who can recommend a travel agent. Maybe a friend or family member have used an online agency they can recommend or perhaps they have used the travel agency you are considering. This will provide a first-hand evaluation which is the single best way to get a feel for any travel provider.
6. PAPER WORK
When you have booked and paid for your holiday with an agency you should receive a confirmation document immediately. This should outline your travel arrangements and the money you have paid. A great way to check if a travel agency is legitimate is by checking that the company names on the paperwork match with who you have paid. There’s no harm in double checking your bank account and credit card statements for names and amounts paid. Keep all documentation relating to your holiday booking on file in case they are needed in the future.
7. PAYMENT METHOD.
Reputable agencies would allow you to make payments via credit cards, Bank deposit, M-pesa paybill or Till numbers. CAUTION IF THE AGENT DEMANDS CASH PAYMENT OR SENDING MONEY TO A MOBILE NUMBER! Always insist on having an official receipt. The receipt should match the website, the branding and the logos...
Sometimes a travel agent would give you commissions and discounts; be cautious if the deal is too good! a 50% commission should raise eye brows.
9. ADDS MORE FEES AFTER YOU HAVE DECIDED AND AGREED ON THE COST
An agent will disclose all fees, surcharges and extras before you make a booking decision... not afterwards. Agents who tell you, "Oh, by the way -- there's a $50 booking fee or an additional fee for entrance etc.." are being less than upfront with you. And who knows what else they're not telling you? It's important to have everything in writing, so there is a paper trail to follow, and being upfront always.
10. OTHER SIGNS
- Hard (impossible) to reach: always the phone number is not available or switched off.
- Doesn't Listen: A competent agent takes the time to listen to what you want, and then makes recommendations based on your needs.
- Has never been to the place he/she is selling to you: If an agent has never been to the destination you intend to travel, this may bring issues as they may not have enough or appropriate information of the place. Don't be surprised if things are different on arrival! A legit agent would always tell you the truth and work together with you in finding information.