TOURISM: Travel Industry Honesty When Quoting
Recent Western Cape Business News
The lack of transparency in the way that airfares are published online and in print advertising is stifling the travel industry. This is frustrating travellers and, according to Cape Town-based Travelstart, will only serve to give the entire travel industry a bad name. Travelstart believes that travel agencies, airlines and tour operators need to keep the customer in mind when advertising fares and is calling for the industry to stop confusing and frustrating its clients by being inconsistent and duplicitous in the way they advertise and quote fares.
Although base fares have remained constant, mandatory taxes, booking fees and fuel surcharges fluctuate, prompting travel agents and airlines to advertise base rates without fees or taxes. This aims to entice travellers into the sales office or website, but once there, they are often disappointed when the agent quotes a completely different and inflated fare. In a recent survey conducted by Travelstart amongst nearly 9000 travellers, 99.2% of respondents said that when they research travel fares, they prefer to see the full price upfront, including all taxes and fees.
“Why not just show the full fare and save the traveller the disappointment from the onset? It is not good business practice, nor ethical, to mislead travellers by advertising rates that do not reflect the full price, and it is going to lead to mistrust amongst customers, which is not good for the industry. At Travelstart, our philosophy is to make it easy for our customers by showing them exactly what they’re paying for upfront, so there should be no reason why everybody else can’t do this as well,” says Travelstart CEO and founder, Stephan Ekbergh.
A roundtrip airfare from Cape Town to London Heathrow, for example, is a reasonable R6500.00 on South African Airways — until you reach the end of the booking process and the fare jumps to R9421.00 as a result of hidden taxes, fees and fuel surcharges.
“A solution would be for government to enforce transparency in the way the industry advertises and quotes fares. This is the case in Europe, where a new transparency legislation was passed in November 2008. It will take a while for this to become a reality in South Africa, but in the meanwhile, customers are suffering and are not getting what they want – and because of this, we believe it is our duty to outline this issue and call on the industry to be more honest,” continues Ekbergh.
Travelstart seeks to challenge the conception of customer service within the travel agent industry. Their push for price transparency forms part of its commitment to ensure customer satisfaction.
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