Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Arabia: Warning Issued over Fake Travel Agencies Advertising Summer Packages | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat-The Saudi Consumer Protection Society warned against the presence of fake travel agencies advertising tourism programs for the summer. The Consumer Protection Society called for consumers to ensure the legitimacy of any tourism agency being dealt with before making any payments.

Dr. Mohammed al Hamad, head of the Consumer Protection Society, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the body received over four complaints after last summer, all of which protested against tourist agencies that provided them with fake flight and hotel bookings. These agencies committed these fraudulent acts at the beginning of summer and were no longer reachable by the end of the popular holiday season.

Al Hamad attributed the low number of complaints that the Consumer Protection Society received and the handling of these complaints to the lack of faculties available to the body, as well as its shortage in financial and human resources. He called for more interaction and cooperation from government institutions and stressed that the consumer should acknowledge the Consumer Protection Society’s role as a link between consumers and the responsible government bodies.

Al Hamad stressed that those who want to travel abroad should not be lured by the adverts printed in newspapers that promote tempting tourist programs. He called for the responsible parties representing the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and the General Authority of Civil Aviation to track down these agencies and punish them by exposing their fake adverts in local papers.

Al Hamad requested that those who deal with travel agencies ensure the validity of their licenses and confirm bookings by calling airlines and hotels. They should also inform the Consumer Protection Society or the relevant bodies if in doubt of certain agencies. Hamad indicated that these agencies exploited the transition period of the licensing department for travel agencies that moved from the General Authority of Civil Aviation to the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

These tourist agencies also use fraudulent methods to pass off fake offers to travellers, which are changed every season. They resort to profiting from more popular travel agencies; for example they would rent a small office or a desk at any of the popular agencies for a period of two months only, which is enough to cover the travel season and take advantage of the office’s name and contact details to sell their own fake programs that are advertised and sold at low prices. Some of these prices are not even realistic and are even lower than the average prices.