Press Release: ASATA response to Travel Scam Reports

The following press release was issued in December to respond to press reports and comments in media fora regarding an alleged travel scam that affected hundreds of South African passengers.

TRAVELLERS LEFT HIGH AND DRY AFTER TICKET SCAM ~ ALWAYS USE AN ACCREDITED ASATA MEMBER!

Hundreds of South Africans have been caught in an e-ticket scam that has left them stranded overseas for the festive season, according to media reports over the past week.

The Weekend Argus reports complaints of fraud have been filed against Kim Robbertse, an independent travel agent from Polokwane, who is alleged to have offered fixed discounted fares via an email earlier in the year. The offer allegedly advertised open return tickets for a fixed price of R7 500 each. The buyers are then reported to have paid Robbertse in advance in to her personal bank account.

The Association of Southern African Travel Agents can confirm that Robbertse is not a member of the association and advises members of the public to ask a travel agent or tour operator if they are a member of ASATA before booking their travel.

ASATA CEO Otto De Vries comments: “It is also important to note that while an Independent Travel Consultant host company may be an ASATA member, the independent travel consultants under their umbrella are obliged to register separately with the association and hence do not automatically qualify for ASATA membership.”

ASATA members have to comply with a strict code of conduct to be members of the association and as such there is an element of security in booking through ASATA members.

“Contrary to comments in the media following the report, ASATA has had absolutely no reported travel scams or failures of its members in the past five years,” adds De Vries.

Among the services consumers can expect from an accredited ASATA member are:

  • The best value for money An ASATA member will tell you about all the available choices and special promotions, as well as advice on the quality and value of a particular product.
  • Customer advocate If you experience a problem on your trip, an ASATA member will act on your behalf to correct it.
  • Expert guidance ASATA professional travel consultants use their extensive knowledge and experience to create, sell and manage various travel-related products to the travelling public.
  • Professional advice All ASATA-accredited travel agencies and travel professionals have the experience, training and knowledge to ensure that in every instance you get the best travel package at the best price.
  • Trust ASATA members are a local business in your area. Not an anonymous website. You know how to reach us, you know how long we’ve been in business and you know where we are.
  • Unbiased information We work for you, the consumer. Not for the airline or any other travel supplier.

Visit the http://www.asata.co.za website to see why it is important for travellers to deal only with ASATA-accredited agencies.

Industry concern over unintended consequences of new immigration legislation

Association of Southern African Travel Agents’ response to joint statement by the Department of Home Affairs and Department of Tourism

It is with growing concern that ASATA took note of the recently released joint press statement that was issued 31 July by the Ministers of Tourism and Home Affairs, confirming an implementation date of 1 October, despite acknowledging short falls in the ability of Home Affairs to meet their own objectives regarding various amendments to the Immigration Act.

On behalf of its members and South African travellers, who are now required to apply for unabridged birth certificates to travel internationally with their children under the age of 18, ASATA has repeatedly asked Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to consider a 12-month deferment of the implantation date and to meet with industry bodies to discuss the impact that this will have on our sectors.

A letter, signed by five of the countries top travel industry leaders, highlighting the concerns of the travel industry and the impact the new ruling would have, was also sent to Minister Gigaba 10 days ago. We have not received acknowledgement of receipt nor our request to meet.  Furthermore, a request for assistance in clarifying some of the concerns raised, e.g. “travellers departing before the end of September but arriving back after the 1 October will they (the child) require an unabridged birth certificate?” has been sent to relevant Home Affairs representatives three weeks ago, to which we have yet to receive a response.

Although the Department of Home Affairs has stated a turn-around time of four to eight weeks to issue a new unabridged birth certificate, practice suggests these timelines are closer to between four and six months, depending on which Home Affairs office to apply too.

This and the lack of a clear communication has created a lot of confusion in our industry and for our clients, who are turning to us to assist in providing clarity.

While we stand behind any efforts to secure our borders and to protect our children in all instances, we have yet to see what research has informed government to introduce a requirement to carry an unabridged birth certificate as an additional travel document.  Our extensive research has shown that no other country in the world has implemented a similar requirement.

In light of this, we question the effectiveness of this new requirement in meeting the Home Affairs’ objective to reduce child trafficking. A birth certificate is not a recognised travel document anywhere in the world; passports and visa’s serve that purpose, with the necessary process behind acquiring one to ensure that it is fit for that purpose.

Please let us be sure that the policies in place serve that purpose and do not have undue consequences.

Furthermore, we must ask that such an onerous new administrative regulation have an appropriate lead in time and a structured and collective consultative process with the travel and airline industries to avoid the inevitable confusion the premature implementation of said new rules will cause to the travelling public and our industry at large.

We therefore re-assert our call for a 12-month grace period in order to ensure minimal short-term disruption to our industry whilst maintaining the Department of Home Affairs objectives.

Meet ASATA’s Board of Directors for 2013/2014

At our recently held AGM, ASATA elected its new Board for the coming year. With our recent adopted funding model in place, it was the first time we applied the new voting process to elect our Board Members, based on market share. We also used the opportunity to call an Extraordinary General Meeting to approve several motions, including the securing of two additional Board positions to include representatives from our Wholesale and our Partner Sections.

ASATA’s new Board Members are:-

President: Claude Vankeirsbilck – Chief Sales Officer of Tourvest Travel Services. In this role, Claude leads the New Business Development division and is responsible for building and maintaining executive-level relationships with the TTS corporate client base.
Vice-President:   Vanya Lessing – CEO of Sure Holdings Ltd. Vanya’s key responsibilities are to look after the commercial interests of the Sure Group stakeholders; being shareholders, licensees and suppliers.
Treasurer: James Sedgwick – comes from a financial background, having worked in the auditing profession before moving into the financial services sector. His involvement in travel comes through his directorship of Fishhoek Travel as well as the Sure Group.
Chief Executive Officer: Otto de Vries – CEO of ASATA. He was previously Managing Director of Holiday Tours and Holiday Travel and has been in the travel and tourism industry for over 25 years.
Members – Retail: Garth Wolff – CEO of E-Travel.
Bronwyn Philipps – Managing Director of HRG Rennies Travel.
Member – Wholesale: George Argyropoulos – Managing Director of Cruises International.
Member – Partners: Charmaine Hardwick – Group Sales Director at Protea Hotels.

The new Board not only represents consistency as we work through the implementation of our strategy of Compliance, Consensus and Confidence, but also includes 3 new Board Members, each bringing with them invaluable experience, input and guidance and helping to ensure that our vision of championing ASATA members as the consumer’s channel of choice when buying travel products and services, is achieved.

For photo’s and detailed biographies, please visit our About the Directors and Staff page.

ASATA Conference 2013

ASATA Conference 2013

 

It is with great pleasure that we announce our ASATA Conference 2013
taking place in Dubai in August.

The theme of this year’s Conference is “the hub of your travel business”. Our goal is to deliver a first class Conference that will allow senior members to network and be briefed on key industry matters and activities of the Association and to re-enforce the message of confidence. Our focus is on engaging industry, so attendees can look forward to relevant business panel discussions and guest speakers who are experts in their fields, sharing and engaging attendees on various topics. Of course the work will be interspersed with leisure time and activities and functions that will further enhance the opportunity to network.

I strongly recommend that our Members make every effort to attend. It is through participation that the real value of your Association is revealed. Our collective power through the input and involvement of our Members is what creates the framework within which our industry regulates itself and operates, in the interest and advancement of a professional industry and to the benefit of the traveling public.

We look forward to welcoming you and hosting you in Dubai! Please visit our ASATA Conference 2013 website for full details and to register.

Otto de Vries
Chief Executive Officer

Meet ASATA’s open door CEO!

Strategic, committed and approachable, ASATA’s new Chief Executive Officer Otto de Vries has his sights firmly set on developing and maintaining the highest level of expertise and professionalism within the industry.

Otto joined the organisation as of 1 January 2013 bringing with him 25 years experience in the travel industry, 17 of these in senior management roles.

A strategic thinker, with experience in managing businesses, start ups, business transformation and projects, Otto’s vision for ASATA is to champion the organisation’s Members as the consumer’s channel of choice when buying travel products and services.

Key to this, he says, is his willingness to listen and take on board the views and opinions of others in an effort find the best possible working solutions to our industry needs.

Otto is known for his strong commercial acumen, having acquired valuable management experience both locally and abroad. While his experience spans from operations and sales and marketing to contract management and product development, Otto’s strengths undoubtedly lie in his people leadership, strategic planning and implementation and change management skills.

Over the next few months Otto will focus on familiarising himself with ASATA’s operations, getting to know the committees and Members throughout the country. Members are thus encouraged to attend regional meetings to meet Otto, hear his vision for ASATA and share their particular views and issues with him.