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Monday, February 13, 2012

TNW pick of the week: Agents, choose your supplier wisely!

Article in the eTNW
 Following shortly after the news that Travellers' Choice would close its doors - the exact cause of which continues to be speculated in the industry - Unusual Destinations announced it would suspend operations due to financial difficulties.

The company was hit with a mass resignation of staff on February 2, a source told TNW. "These resignations were accepted and the termination of employment was by mutual consent." A representative of Unusual Destinations said the company was hoping the situation would be a temporary one and that the operator could sort out its financial situation and resume services soon.

However, agents and tour operators do not believe these incidents are the beginning of a trend in the industry.

"I would say that the closing down of Travellers' Choice and the suspension of operations at Unusual Destinations are isolated cases and that it's just coincidental that one happened so soon after the other," says product and marketing manager of African Encounters, Juan Nel

"The last few years weren't the easiest in travel because of the global economic situation and the uncertainty that exists in the market but these factors are not the only cause of companies getting into financial difficulties. There must have been other factors involved," he says.

Senior manager of contracting, marketing and operations at The Holiday Factory, Flora Fubbs, adds that this is not unique to tour operators or the travel industry in general. "In all industries around the world businesses close their doors daily for a variety of reasons."

"We have very professional tour operators in the main," says BidTravel md, Allan Lunz. "Unfortunately you will get one or two operators who will fail. Travel agents need to be cautious who they entrust their bookings with. The customer believes he deals with the agent not the operator."

So what can agents do to protect themselves and their clients from this type of fallout?

"It's difficult, because my first answer would be to look at how long the company has been in business," says Juan. "However, both these companies have been in the industry for a while."

An important step, he says, is to check for necessary accreditation such as Iata and Asata membership. "Look at publications such as newspapers to see if the operator is still advertising. Agents should also ask the company if they are financially sound - ask Asata for their view on the company. Ask previous clients too."

Meanwhile, Flora believes travel agents and their clients should stick to booking with companies who maintain sound financial practices and do not waver in their policies and procedures.

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