By Kayode Oyero
Travel agencies play an important role in the aviation and tourism value chain. They serve as an interface between airlines and the travelling public. Travel agencies provide services which help airlines have time to focus more on things that matter. Some of the services they offer include sales of flight tickets based on a special agreement with airlines, travel insurance, migration advice, holiday packages, Visa processing, among others. However, fraudulent practices by unscrupulous persons who masquerade as travel agents but fleece passengers of their money have been undeniable in the business, one that is harmful to public trust.
Of late, the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), the umbrella body of travel agencies in Nigeria, embarked on some measures that aim at sanitizing the operations of travel agencies in the country. One of such is the recently introduced Nigerian Travel Practitioners Identity Card (NTPIC).
According to NANTA President, Mr. Bankole Bernard, the NTPIC is imperative to rid the business of fraudsters and reposition the business.
But industry observers say it could take more than an identity card to weed out the bad ones in the business noting that an ID card could be fabricated.
Responding to this, NANTA National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Ladipo, explains that “There are features in place to guard against the forgery of the NTPIC. It is not just an ordinary card. The NTPIC is tied to the BVN of every single member and you and I know the essence of the BVN. There are security features on the card. It has a bar code that when snapped brings out all the details of the bearer. It is not something that can be fabricated. The card is secured.”
He adds that the NTPIC is in two categories. While the first category is for agencies, the second category is for key staff of the agencies. He says the body will continue to improve on it as time goes on.
On whether there are sanctions in place to deter perpetrators, Mr. Ladipo says apprehended persons will be handed over to the police for proper punishment. “We are also working on the NANTA Act which will give us the legal backing to do whatever thing within the ambit of the law to erring persons. The NANTA Act has gone through the second reading and before the end of the year should be passed by the legislature. This will go a long way to help the fight against fraudulent travel agencies,” he adds.
A travel agent who is also a registered member of NANTA says impossibly low offers is one of the enticements used by crooks to hoodwink unsuspecting victims, hence implores the public to beware of such too-good-to-be-true offers. She adds that the public should look out for IATA certificate and NANTA stickers at travel outfits before engaging in business transactions, noting that only genuine travel agencies have these items on display at their outlets.
“NANTA appeals to the public to insist on NTPIC before doing business with any travel agency in Nigeria. Immediately you scan the bar code with your phone, it brings out all the details of the bearer. The public should conduct this check before transacting business with any travel agency,” Mr. Ladipo adds.