Joanie was working on a presentation and was looking for a YouTube video on the educational aspect of travel. While I didn’t find anything that she could use, I did find hundreds of videos selling how people can travel for free or almost free. Travel courses sharing secrets few people know about how to travel for free, business opportunities where people can travel like travel agents, travel clubs that offer travel at deep discounts, how to cruise for only $25.00 per day and on and on. All of the videos show beautiful people staying in resorts, on beaches, ships and hotel / resort rooms. They show people all over the world enjoying sightseeing, dining, entertainment and simply relaxing. Best of all, all of these videos will share their secrets on how to travel for free, or almost free. Of course, the videos will share this valuable information and/or opportunity for an investment of just a few hundred dollars.
Are people really this naive?
So, after over 40-years in the travel business, over 300 cruises, 150 countries and a lifetime of travel, I thought that I would share the top eight elements of how to travel for free SCAMS.
SCAM #1: You can’t take a “secret” course and travel the rest of your life for free: This video was so offensive it was shocking. Yet, the YouTube view count was over 120,000. Here is the reality; there are no “little known secrets” that will lead to unlimited luxury worldwide travel for free. Anyone that purchased this course needs some serious help.
SCAM #2: You can’t show a cruise line a phony travel agent business card and cruise for $25.00 per day: Cruise lines are not ignorant. They know which agencies are selling their products and never simply grant a discount to anyone that shows up claiming to be a travel agent. Part of the cruise line’s marketing strategy does not include giving deep discounts to travel agents who will then talk up the benefits of the cruise. They have millions of customers that pay full bore for their cabin and talk up the cruise.
SCAM #3: Airlines don’t upgrade travel agents: This one is so laughable it is sad. My wife and I get upgraded frequently on Continental Airlines (now United) not because we are in the travel industry, but because we are loyal frequent flyers. Airlines haven’t paid commissions to travel agents for years and do not see travel agents as a viable distribution channel. Travel agents are the least likely passenger to get upgraded to first class.
SCAM #4: MLMs and travel do not get along: Some of the most outrageous videos on YouTube are put there by people recruiting for MLMs (Multi Level Marketing). The list of failed MLMs in the travel industry is a mile long. The reason is that a MLM offers no efficiency savings and margins in the travel industry are too thin to support its ongoing operation. Yet the “investment” revenue (usually $495.00 to stay under federal disclosure laws) is quite handsome. Travel MLMs focus solely on recruiting new “agents” for their source of income, rather than the sale of travel. Many suppliers refuse to do business with MLMs because they see them only as discount centers for consumers who would otherwise pay full price.
SCAM #5: Hotels and resorts do not offer discounts or upgrades to every person that shows up with a travel agent business card or phony ID card: Most of the YouTube “Become a Travel Agent” videos make the claim that you will be able to stay at resorts and hotels around the world for practically nothing. Again, how stupid do you think the hotel and resort management teams are?
SCAM #6: Fam (familiarization) trips were widely available before the Airline Deregulation Act (1981) but not so much now. In a regulated environment when travel agencies were airline centric, destinations, tour operators, airlines and others would host travel agents on familiarization trips to introduce them to a new destination, product or service, Of course, these are long gone, but the sales pitch sounds so good, the legend lives on. If someone is telling you that you will go on “fabulous fam trips” as an agent, run the other way!
SCAM #7: Discount Travel Clubs are the number one travel scam according to MSNBC and ABC among others. The reason is that consumers sign an Agreement to pay monthly (or some other time period) membership dues and get nothing in return. Think “Vons Club” where Vons Club members save on every item. You go into a Vons and buy a bottle of wine for $17.95 and get a $5.00 “discount” paying only $12.95. Sure you got a “member discount” only you can buy the same bottle of wine elsewhere for the same amount as the “discounted price” or less. Margins in the travel industry are too thin for anyone to give a meaningful discount.
SCAM ALERT! I just heard about a new travel club that requires people to pay $150.00 to join and $35.00 per month to get HUGE travel discounts. Once you are a member and you book your first cruise or vacation, you earn “travel points” that you can use for your next vacation. Of course, the person that sold you the membership gets $100.00 of the initial payment and a portion of your monthly payment, as well. But wait, you can also recruit other people into the discount club and earn money on their membership revenue too. Oh brother!
SCAM #8: You have won a free cruise certificate! (just pay a nominal registration fee) Travel certificates are virtually always a SCAM. These are always sold through telemarketing so if you receive a telephone call saying you have won a free cruise or vacation, HANG UP! No matter how inviting the telemarketer makes it sound, hang up and realize that you just saved yourself a lot of grief.
*Thanks to Phillip Martin for the use of his clip art. Visit his site at http://www.phillipmartin.info/