Travel News South Africa

Duplicitous advertising slammed by Travelstart CEO

The lack of transparency in the way that airfares are published online and in print advertising is stifling the travel industry and, according to Travelstart CEO Stephan Ekbergh, is giving 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 up front, including all taxes and fees.

Show the full fare

“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 up front, so there should be no reason why everybody else can't do this as well,” said Travelstart CEO and founder, Stephan Ekbergh.

A round-trip airfare from Cape Town to London Heathrow, for example, is a reasonable R6500 on South African Airways — until you reach the end of the booking process and the fare jumps to R9421 as a result of hidden taxes, fees and fuel surcharges.

Government should enforce transparency

“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 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,” continued Ekbergh.

Travelstart seeks to challenge the conception of customer service within the travel agent industry. Its push for price transparency forms part of its commitment to ensure customer satisfaction.

“The travel agent's role is to make dreams comes true, and it is important to remember that relationships are built on trust and ethics. Misleading clients is like having a one-night-stand, and everyone knows that a once-off affair is not likely to produce a second date,” concluded Ekbergh.

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