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Dutch consumer watchdog slams travel firms

19 October 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch travel agencies are not professional enough or simply don’t bother to give consumers proper advice, consumer watchdog Consumentenbond claimed Tuesday. It based its damning accusations on a study of the niche safari holiday market.

The consumer group put 220 branches of 11 different travel bureaus to the test between 19 May and 9 July and gave the thumbs down to 160 branches. It described the results of the survey as “miserable”.

The watchdog is now demanding talks with the association of Dutch travel agencies ANVR. In reaction, the ANVR said consumers must always offer clear and correct information in order to get the proper advice.

The Consumentenbond asked each branch it tested for information on a safari holiday in Africa. The questions related to the choice of destination and the safari parks themselves. It also asked for information on the best time of year to for the holiday, vaccinations, visa information and safety.

The list of firms questioned included ANWB, Brooks, D-Reizen, Globe, My Travel, Star Travel, V&D and World of Tui. The latter scored the best, but no chain offered consumers consistent quality. Despite this, all chains had both good and bad branches, the consumer group said.

But ANVR also said the research involved specific information affecting about 12,000 people who go on safari in Kenya and Tanzania annually. This was compared with in total 7 million bookings to other destinations made with ANVR travel agencies each year. 

Nevertheless, D-Reizen director Will van den Hoogen said: “We have something to improve on. I am not pleased with the result that D-Reizen achieved”.

But the results of the study did not correspond with those from D-Reizen’s monthly internal assessments. Despite this, Van den Hoogen refused to dismiss the consumer group’s findings, asserting that it knew what it was doing. “Studies such as these keep the market and personnel sharp and that is positive,” he said.

The Consumentenbond urged for a distinction to be made between travel bureaus based on services offered. The distinction could be based on very simple services such as reservations and serious services. 

Van den Hoogen said the travel industry was one step ahead of the travel Consumentenbond. He claimed that the industry was already discussing a distinction between services.

“But if consumers pay for advice, the advice must be of sufficient quality,” he said.

[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]

Subject: Dutch news