For those unfamiliar with TravelMole, to use the company’s own description, it was the first online community for the travel and tourism industry established in 1998. Across their various divisions they publish 15 regular eNewsletters and broadcast hundreds of videos to over 450,000 travel and tourism industry professional registered members and subscribers, as well as over 30 million consumers in 132 countries.
To me, it is a vital source of information about the industry, often analysing critical aspects of tourism, from a non-traditional mindset and angle. While it may not seem particularly relevant to Barbados at first, a recent TravelMole article, entitled ‘cost of travel fraud rises dramatically’ caught my eye.
The report compiled by the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau disclosed that the amount of money lost to travel fraudsters increased by 426 per cent in 2015 to GB Pounds 11.5 million when compared to the previous year. They revealed that 4,910 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported in 2015. Bearing in mind that this is the UK alone! The single largest percentage were last-minute bookings and surprisingly the most commonly targeted group are those aged 30-49 years, many of which have young families.
The average loss was GB Pounds 3,000 which I found a comparatively large amount. Most fraud related to the sale of airline tickets but there has also been a surge in the number of owner accounts being hacked into on popular sharing accommodation websites. Clearly, the Internet has changed dramatically the way many people book their holidays, but it has brought with us great opportunities for embezzlement by clever but unscrupulous interests.
The Action Fraud section (www.actionfraud.police.co.uk) makes a number of suggestions including advising holidaymakers to do their research and in the case of accommodation, don’t just rely on one review – do a thorough online search to check the company’s credentials. If a company is defrauding people there is a good chance that consumers will post details of their experiences and warnings about the property or business.
I make no apologies for returning to a decade’s long, so far fruitless campaign to ensure that we have an online database where all accommodation options on Barbados can be found to help protect the integrity of the destination.
Again, to repeat this is not to deter any legitimate provider of lodging offerings, however small, but to give our marketing people a complete picture of the hugely diverse array of choices, knowing that they meet minimum standards of safety, security, insurance and health.
The newly formed Barbados Tourism Product Authority has a very dynamic head and is seemingly more than capable of galvanizing such a universally accessible database website. It would not necessarily cost the taxpayer a single cent, as implementation and ongoing expenses could be funded by a simple annual fee.
We are currently working with an insurance company on another project which will result in re-DISCOVER partners obtaining substantial reductions on premiums. If they knew that there was a major source of additional building, contents and indemnity business, they might even help set us the database.