The Kenya Association of Travel Agents (KATA) has appealed to the Government and airlines to refund millions of funds owed to the travel agency sector. According to the association, the government and airlines are taking a lot of time to remit pending bills and refunds owed to travel agents.
KATA Board Chairman Mr. Mohammed Wanyoike said that travel agents need these funds to cater for refunds to their clients. “With the restricted movements in and out of the country occasioned by the highly contagious COVID-19, travellers have cancelled their scheduled flights. This means that no business is taking place and no revenue is coming in. Travel agents need these funds to refund travellers who have cancelled their flights,” he said.
Airlines, he further pointed out, have instructed passengers who had booked flights with travel agents to seek refunds from their travel advisors. “This puts agents in a bad position as the airlines have declined to refund tickets bought through agents,” Mr Wanyoike stated.
He noted that some airlines are issuing vouchers instead of cash refunds through agents therefore causing conflict for the agents, as customers are demanding full refunds in cash claiming that they have no immediate travel plans in the foreseeable future. Similarly, the travel agents cannot assign this voucher on other bookings owing to the issuing restrictions. This has also led to a stalemate between the customers and travel agents owing to the inflexibility demonstrated by the airlines issuing the refund vouchers.
On the other hand, Mr. Wanyoike further said, the government owes travel agents over Kes. 434 million in pending bills. “We have been working closely with government ministries to ensure that these funds are remitted to agents in good time to allow the sustainability of our businesses during this COVID-19 period where the travel industry has ground to a stop.
The Kenya Association of Travel Agents is the national umbrella body for Travel Agents in Kenya, with a growing membership of over 200 Travel Agencies. It is Kenya’s largest and only membership organization for travel agents. KATA transitioned from a society to a company limited by guarantee in September 2018, providing more space for growth and defending the travel trade. KATA is a member of the Universal Federation of Travel Agents’ Association (UFTAA) which represents 84 countries. It also hosts the Secretariat of the Association of Eastern and Southern African Travel Agents (AESATA).