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‘State Department’ Scam
Dallas-based Campbell Travel discovered a new scam directed at
travel agencies the hard way, by getting ripped off.
A woman describing herself as a U.S. embassy employee in Mexico
City phoned the agency saying she would be buying air tickets on
behalf of embassy staff. The caller ordered $75,000 worth of
airline tickets on nine non-U.S. carriers, and has since
Owner Bob Campbell said the agency, which so far has received
three debit memos from the airlines for about $5,000, determined
that most of the tickets were converted into vouchers. He said the
agency reported the incident and the voucher numbers to the
airlines, and as far as he and CEO Bill Campbell can determine, no
airline has used the information to intercept the perpetrators.
Agency officials stepped forward to tell their story for two
reasons: to alert other travel professionals and to remind agents
they won’t get much help from airlines in preventing big losses.
Though Campbell Travel may end up being liable for the tickets and
the agency acknowledged the fraudster managed to circumvent
controls meant to avoid such fraud they hold the carriers liable,
as well, for failing to put a stop to the ongoing theft.
“In talking to the carriers, they just say the rest [of the
debit memos] will be coming,” Bill Campbell said.
Meanwhile, the State Department said that every office location
has one travel management center and, “per department policy, U.S.
government personnel assigned at the post are to use [that center]
when making official travel arrangements.”
Agents who wish to report fraud or suspicions about phony
embassy staff can call the Office of the Inspector General at
800-409-9926 or e-mail [email protected].
HAL Clears Up Travelocity Flap
Holland America Line said it wanted to “clarify” its group policy
in relation to Travelocity this month “due to confusion.”
According to a release from HAL, the problem began when
Travelocity issued a news release that said it planned to have a
hospitality desk onboard Holland America cruise ships to help
Travelocity customers, leading to concern in the travel agent
community. However, HAL claims that the release was not given to
them for prior review and that the release was misleading. HAL also
stated it will not allow a hospitality desk as part of
Travelocity’s AARP program or for Travelocity’s group bookings.
In addition, HAL’s release said that all onboard leader/escorts,
including Travelocity’s, are required to sign HAL’s Onboard Code of
Ethical Conduct, which states that onboard group leaders cannot and
will not solicit sales from guests not booked through their
Initial reaction to the Travelocity release was negative among
some travel agents, with agencies considering boycotting sailings
that had Travelocity help desks onboard.
OneTravel Holdings completed its sale of SunTrips to Crystal
Hospitality Holdings under restructured terms that consist
primarily of a requirement for Crystal to spend at least $1.2
million annually for seven years to cover SunTrips’
The sale went through in spite of a class-action lawsuit filed
in February on behalf of travel agents who claimed to be owed more
than $1 million in commissions.
Crystal Holdings officials said the company was committed to
paying 100 percent of the commissions as soon as the sale was
SunTrips had suffered losses for an extended period of time and
needed an influx of cash to stop the hemorrhaging and put the
company back on track, according to OneTravel president Marc
Matthew Holliday, president of SunTours, which operates the
SunTrips brand, added, “The SunTrips brand is still very strong,
but capital constraints as well as inherited operational
inefficiencies have greatly limited our ability to make and
implement strategic decisions that may have enabled us to turn the
OneTravel said Crystal will call all SunTrips passengers who are
scheduled to travel after April 3 to confirm their travel plans or
Deals to South America
The inaugural flight of LAN Peru’s direct service between Los
Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil, is scheduled to begin on March 22,
with four flights per week.
To promote the new route, LAN Peru is offering passengers a
special fare via its Web site of $499 roundtrip from Los Angeles or
San Francisco to Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. Tickets must be
issued before the inaugural flight and travel must be completed by
In addition, LAN Peru also offers connecting flights between Los
Angeles and Sao Paulo (via Lima) on two additional days (Tuesdays
and Saturdays southbound, and Mondays and Wednesdays northbound),
giving passengers the choice of six weekly flights between the U.S.
West Coast and Brazil.
As of March 7, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has become Regent
Seven Seas Cruises. The rebranding constitutes an upgrade of the
product rather than a change in management, according to Carlson
Companies, the parent company of both Radisson and Regent.
Mark Conroy, newly named president of Regent land and sea
(formerly president and CEO of Radisson Seven Seas Cruises), said
that the cruise line is in a position to help in the development
and growth of the hotel business (which has eight hotels and will
open another nine in the next two years), whereas in its early
phases the fledgling cruise line benefited from its association
with the Radisson hotel business.
ITB Berlin Sets Record
The 40th ITB Berlin offered a record number of participants this
year, with 10,856 exhibiting companies from 183 countries. To mark
the 40th anniversary a prize draw took place with a thousand
travel-related prizes from city breaks to cruises and a top prize
of a FIAT Panda Racing sponsored by the Italian National Tourist
The event also began offering entrance to the general public
this year, in an effort to promote the latest travel trends.
Thrifty Offers Triple Miles
Thrifty Car Rental will offer customers triple miles with Delta
Air Lines through May 31. Delta SkyMiles members who rent a
mid-size or larger vehicle for two to seven days will earn triple
miles 150 miles per rental day.
Qualifying rentals must be booked via www.thrifty.com using PC
The Happiest Spa on Earth
A new luxury spa facility, Mandara Spa, is scheduled to open at
Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel this month. The guestrooms of
the hotel will also receive renovations to be completed over the
next six months.
In addition, The Paradise Pier Hotel will be updated with the
remodeling of the hotel’s Pacific Ballroom and Yamabuki, Japanese
National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (NACTA)
members with a TravelSellers Identification Code are eligible to
register their agency for a trial program to receive commissions on
Marriott brands, provided they have passed the Marriott Hotel
Excellence Program. This program will pay commissions to qualified
NACTA members through Dec. 31.
NACTA members may register for the program by going to NACTA’s
Web site. All registrations must be made through NACTA not through
Ensemble to Ryder Cup
Clients of Ensemble Travel Group can enjoy exclusive perks
including free shore excursions when they book the 2006 Ryder Cup
golf package in Ireland aboard the Seabourn Pride through an
Ensemble Travel Group member agency.
Dates for the 14- and 10-night departures are Sept. 15-29 and
Sept. 15-25. Both include four nights port aboard the yacht-like
vessel in Dublin during the Ryder Cup.
The 10-night trip starts $9,904 per person, double occupancy,
while the 14-night trip starts at $10,700.
Signature Travel Network recently launched Value Finder, a new
technology release designed to keep Signature members and their
clients on the forefront of cruise specials and new offers.
Signature members and clients create profiles based on
preferences, and offers that match are automatically e-mailed to
the users. The service will soon expand to text and instant
messaging as well.