Puerto Rico Tourism Co. announces fines for fake travel agents
SAN JUAN – As part of Travel Agent Week, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC), José Izquierdo, announced new fines for companies or individuals without the needed permits.
Izquierdo announced that in order to address this situation immediately, a fine of $10,000 was imposed by resolution for companies or individuals presenting themselves as travel agents without certification. He added that he intends to pursue changes to the law to make it a crime.
In recent days, the former president of the American Society of Travel Agents’ (ASTA) Puerto Rico chapter, Daphne Barbeito, warned of companies acting as travel agents online and granting certifications without the necessary permits or consumer protections.
“They are operating through social networks in Puerto Rico. They sell memberships…to individuals who want to become travel agents,” Barbeito said during a press conference.
As for the companies operating only online, Barbeito explained that the regulations indicate that travel agencies have to have a physical presence in Puerto Rico. In addition, all travel agencies require certification from the Tourism Co., among other permits, to be in compliance.
“In the Tourism Company we value the function and credibility of travel agencies and we urge all travelers to make sure to use those that are regulated by the PRTC, since those are the ones that offer the reliability and good service guarantees sought by travelers; this is backed by the control processes to which they are subject—insurance, the provision of bonds and other requirements they meet to be certified,” the PRTC director said.
In addition to stating that these unlicensed companies are a risk to consumers and can lead to pyramid schemes, Barbeito said these companies must be analyzed tax-wise.
The former ASTA executive indicated that these schemes affect “small and midsize businesses that operate legally and contribute to the Puerto Rico Treasury.” Barbeito added that she believes the Treasury Department should also investigate the situation.
As part of Travel Agent Week, the Tourism Co. also recognized Puerto Rico Travel Agents Association President Manuel Franceschini; ASTA President Iván Soler; and Lucy Rodríguez, vice president of the Travel and Tourism Wholesalers Society.