IN RUSSIAN

Tourists become aware of legal aspects

4 September 2012 - 10:18am

Three and a half years ago the legal service of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia was established. Its head Nadezhda Yefremova said that in the summer season they received a little less than 200 calls, we processed them; 61% of the requests were from individuals, 32% - from agencies and 7% - from tour operators.

The portrait of their client in the season is as follows: it is a private person who lives in Moscow and who calls a legal service in order to complain about fraud on the part of a travel agency, above all, during a tour to Russia. There have been a number of unpleasant incidents in the market this season. The first is associated with "United Resorts", a company that organized accommodation in sanatoria in Sochi, Gelendzhik and the surrounding regions and disappeared with the money of tourists. There was a barrage of calls to the Association on this issue, there were more than 50 calls. The people had a number of questions: how to get their money back, whether it was possible to somehow return the money transferred to the sanatoria, how to return the deposit, how to negotiate with the bank to withdraw funds from the account. All of these calls related to the fraudulent activities of "United Resorts", came to the organization, and many of them continue to come to us up to this day.

The secondmost popular questions were asked on tours to Turkey - the more tourists arrive in this area, the more questions arise. The third place on appeals to the legal service is taken by Egypt – it accounts for 8% of all appeals. Fourth place is taken by Bulgaria. Fifth place is divided between Greece and Italy, This is the crash of the Costa Concordia, the bankrupt airline Wind Jet, and, of course, people have questions, how to deal with this situation, what can be done, and how to get money.

As for the place of residence of consumers who turn to the legal service, the consumers who live in Moscow are certainly the leaders (24%). St. Petersburg is in second place, accounting for 5% of the cases. Third place is shared between Nizhny Novgorod and Krasnodar – 4%. We are asked different questions from Pyatigorsk, Barnaul, Saratov, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh, Krasnogorsk, Murmansk, Yoshkar-Ola, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, that is, almost all the cities where there are tourism and travel companies.

The most popular and the most important point of our statistics is the reason for an appeal. First place for them is taken by fraud. This is associated, again, with "United Resorts" and with the Moscow travel agency «Julia Travel», which, as you probably know, worked in the market for more than 10 years, and over the years it was one of the most professional agencies, this agency was a priority for many operators, but the last year it worked worse and worse. Unfortunately, it disappeared from all the high ratings and its activities ended when tourists paid money for a variety of tours to various directions, and in late July it became clear that there is no such agency. None of the tour operators received cash, despite the fact that «Julia Travel» had good, proper, legal contracts, in which the operator was always specified. All of these tourists, all the tourists of «Julia Travel» lost their money and there is no legitimate opportunities to return them so far, because it is impossible to find the leadership of «Julia Travel».

The second highest reason for an appeal to legal service is abandonment of a tour. Unfortunately, Russian tourists do not always recognize the right of the tour operator to detain the actual costs in case of abandoning a tour. Not everyone is ready to accept it; people turn to us in order to understand that this is legal. There are a lot of such questions; they account for about 14% of all the requests to the legal service.

Claims to hotels and tour operators’ bankruptcy are in third place. Despite the fact that in summer, fortunately, large bankruptcies have not occurred, however, 12% of all requests concern this issue. People ask questions about the bankruptcy of the tour operator "Lanta-Tour", and about the bankruptcy of ITC, and even about bankruptcy of "Capital Tour."  Such companies no longer exist, and tourists and agencies still have problems.

Complaints about hotels are also quite popular; they account for 12% of all the calls, because in summer, people tend to go to the sea as a family, with children, and accommodation facilities are important for them. If there is any relocation or replacement of the hotel, or people do not have what they hope to see by staying in this hotel, it is also one of the main causes of all claims. People are trying to figure out how to fix these violations, how to make a complaint, and whether the claim to this hotel is justified or not in this case.

We have been also contacted as a result of non-fulfillment of the obligations of the agency - it is 10% - and 6% of all requests. More and more applications come to us with this question both from tourists and from agencies. Agencies try to find a partner whose financial condition is satisfactory; they are looking for a reliable partner that will organize tours without problems with customers. Customers are just trying to find out whether there will be scandals with tour operators or not. Unfortunately, you can still learn that all these references about the reliability of the tour operator come to us after the tourist pays the full cost of the tour; that is, in principle, when he signed a contract with the tour operator and booked the tour, and it is quite difficult to terminate the contract. Unfortunately, the trend continues - we pay first, and then we find out if the tour operator is reliable or not. Many people, including tourists, cared about the amendments to the law adopted in May this year; the tourists figured out how they would live, where they would apply, if something went wrong. Of course, agencies and tour operators were mostly interested in these issues. Various questions concerned visas, transportation, and insurance, covering approximately 3% or less of all the appeals. Unfortunately, there are still persistent appeals to legal service about timeshares, the vouchers which are still being sold, mostly in shopping malls, and a lot of consumers buy them, then read the contract, and it appears that it is almost impossible to terminate the contract, because it is signed with a foreign entity, and people try to solve this problem somehow. Once again, unfortunately, timeshare is still thriving.

The main tendency is that if tourists previously found it difficult to answer who was their tour operator, not all tourists realized that, in addition to the agency, there is the direct executor of their tour, the company that is responsible for organizing and for their stay abroad. Now, this summer, 16.5% of the tourists were undecided who was a tour operator for their tour. This is an obvious reduction. More and more tourists are beginning to understand the relationship between a tour operator and a travel agent; more travelers understand what's inside the tourist business and who is responsible for everything.


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