Travellers have been left stranded and thousands of dollars out of pocket by sudden problems affecting yet another travel agent – this one in Adelaide.
The latest negative publicity, centred on an agency called Zym Travel, comes after a spate of collapses in other states which is producing a backlash against smaller, independent agents.
The drift can be discerned in comments on Facebook and other social media. Consumers are increasingly aware that the end of the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF) has left their money vulnerable to agency collapse.
“Travel chaos at Adelaide Airport as travellers left high and dry by Zym Travel” was the headline that greeted readers of the Adelaide Advertiser last week. The online edition of the Australian and other media outlets also ran the story.
Zym Travel is located at Royal Park in Adelaide’s western suburbs.
On Saturday, The Advertiser showed a photo of a stranded family standing outside the agency, one of a “long list of South Australians hit by what appears to be the collapse of a local travel agency”.
The Advertiser pointed out that a representative of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) had confirmed late Friday afternoon that Zym Travel had not been placed into administration.
It’s just that air tickets are not being honoured and may not have been booked. People are unable to travel, despite having paid. The Advertiser said it understood the value of bookings affected was around AUD 100,000.
South Australia Police and the SA State Government’s Consumer and Business Services told the paper they were investigating and a spokesperson for Emirates Airline said 26 passengers had been affected “by the closure of Zym Travel”.
“Emirates continues to work with Australian Consumer Affairs in assisting the affected passengers,” the spokesperson added.
The Advertiser article quoted AFTA general manager Gary O’Riordan saying Zym was not an accredited agency and that consumers should be wary of companies that had not undertaken AFTA’s travel accreditation scheme.
The Advertiser’s report ends with the question: “Have you had problems with a travel agent? Contact us at [email protected]
That is not the sort of question likely to promote confidence in travel agents.
While ATAS accreditation may make an agency less likely to go down, it is no guarantee. Two recently collapsed agents were ATAS accredited. Unlike the TCF which ATAS replaced, membership of ATAS provides no protection for consumer funds.
Zym Travel specialised in travel to the Balkan region. If it has in fact collapsed, it will be the sixth known travel agency collapse in 11 weeks, producing consumer losses in excess of AUD 1 million.
Negative reports concerning travel agencies collapsing and/or agents absconding are beginning to turn consumer sentiment. Instability in any industry tends to push consumers in the direction of bigger players or chains, who are seen as more reliable. It may also drive people to book directly online, a process increasingly seen as no riskier than dealing with agents.
Comments posted on Zym Travel’s Facebook page give an indication of public feeling, as follows:
“This is what happens when things are deregulated. No Travel Compensation Fund anymore… anyone can open an agency and pretend to know what they are doing. Stick with reputable companies.” – Michelle Scragg.
“Better to book yourself. I haven’t used a travel agent since our honeymoon nearly 20 years ago. Not necessary. Much cheaper to do it myself online and never had an issue with flights, cars, accom, etc…” – Dianne Nicholls.
“Why do people persist to try cut cost by using these cheap relatively unknown Travel Agents?” – Brian Arthur.
“Should have gone to Flight Centre.” – James Millar.
“This is why Hello World is the best company in Australia.” – Donna Guidotto (who identifies herself on Facebook as owner/consultant at Helloworld Elizabeth in the northern Adelaide suburb).
Written by Peter Needham