Friday, April 4, 2008

scams give a bad name and leave a bad taste

In my international travels I have been scammed in many countries and the unwitting tourist can get scammed anywhere. I was mugged three times in two days in Rome and that must be a record, and also when in the Czech Republic, we found out first hand to our great cost, how preying the Czech police can be on an unsuspecting tourist, targeting them for a minor offence, and fining for a parking offence, even before stopping the engine for the first time in the country.

It is therefore not unusual that it happens in Sri Lanka too. I believe, leaving a very good impression of the country is the best we can do if we are to attract tourists by word of mouth, to this beautiful country and be able to genuinely show our very real and unmatched hospitality. In a time when the press is so full of the violence in Sri Lanka, let us not forget tourists have never been targeted and their experiences have rarely included the face of terrorism, however, they have faced scams that have left an indelible mark.

In the interests of future tourism, encouraging more repeat and recommendation tourists, it is essential we take positive steps to minimize these experiences. The instances are many, and would not bore you on every type of scam, but they fall into two main categories, telling lies, and taking more money than is necessary for a product or service.

Many tourist service providers, like guides, drivers, and concierges who are the face of the person that a tourist comes in direct contact with, often by lying and charging excessively compromises a wonderful vacation, and clouds one’s experience. Often inadequate pay, which they hope to supplement by fleecing a tourist, whether he goes to a shop from which a guide receives an excessive commission, or charge a rate for a journey that is outrageous is not a good enough reason to permit it. The tour operators are either complicit or turn a blind eye, because they are the cause sometimes of inadequate compensation. In a period where the tour operator or hotel is struggling, low pay results and good staff with professional ethics leave to go overseas, leaving unscrupulous operators to fill the void.

The industry must first understand there is a problem, and then tackle it by means such as awareness, by publishing rates for distances traveled, or shops that offer reasonable pricing. I have been given prices in tourist resorts that are considerably higher than even Odel in Colombo for the same item.

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