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14.04.2005 General News

Ghana Tourist Board To Be Sued?

By International Centre for Consumer Issues

Flyjet Passengers to Drag Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) and Ghana Travel Ltd (Ghana) to Court Passengers with valid tickets of Ghana Travel Ltd/Flyjet to and from London who have not been able to fly as a result of the delays or who have bought tickets from other airlines as a result of the said delays to continue their journey, are planning to sue Ghana Travel Ltd and its Directors as well as the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) jointly and severally for compensation and refund. This may be so if the GTB does not call in the ATOL Bond to settle their claims. The complaints desk of the International Centre for Consumer Issues and Advocacy (ICCIA) has been flooded with phone calls from stranded passengers, especially those of the above category. As a result of the foregoing, ICCIA is empowering the stranded passengers to insist on their strict legal rights.

The Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City (MOTMOCC) and the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) have failed in their rush to promote an overambitious Tourism Strategic Action Plan 2007. The lack of an in-depth due diligence procedure and stringent conditions for acquiring an ATOL licence has led to the collapse of an otherwise promising Travel Organiser – Ghana Travel Ltd. The Centre for the Study of Tourism and Hospitality Firms (CESTHOF), a division of ICCIA, has been investigating the weak structures in the Tourism and Hospitality industries of Ghana and has traced it to the non-use of local Consultants in both industries. And whenever these consultants submit proposals to the GTB and MOTMOCC, they are usually not considered but later pirated by these two bodies.

The purpose for which ATOL licences were issued wholesale – the rush for tourists - was to promote tourism by bringing in holiday makers on a “tour package: flights with pre-booked hotels, meals, local transport, entertainment, etc., for a specific period e.g., one week.” For lack of knowledge, insight and guidance, the GTB and the Charter Operators flouted the rules of the game, thereby creating unnecessary competition for the scheduled operators like British Airways. All the Charter Flight Operators are actively selling “seats only” regular flights to their destinations, another way of operating a scheduled flight.

Ghana Travel Ltd (UK) has gone bust and lost their ATOL licence (UK), however, Ghana Travel Ltd (Ghana) still holds a valid ATOL licence (Ghana) to operate charter services to “nowhere”. And a search conducted at the Registrar General's Department revealed an empty file with no registration document!

The Ghana Tourist Board is silent on the revocation of the ATOL licence granted Ghana Travel Ltd (Ghana). The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has called in the ATOL Bond of £320,000 to pay off claims and compensation due passengers that bought their flight tickets from Ghana Travel Ltd (UK) in the UK only. The computers of Ghana Travel Ltd (UK) have disappeared and the CAA is finding difficulty tracing tickets bought in the UK and those bought in Ghana.

Ghana Tours Ltd (Britannia Airlines) is collaborating with ICCIA in lifting all stranded passengers with return flights only at no extra cost.

The Charter Flights and Tours Regulations 1975 L.I. 1050 clearly spells out the conditions under which an ATOL Bond may be called in: “…which shall be made available in the event of its(the Travel Organiser) failure to operate the flight to repatriate any stranded passenger or reimburse any person who has paid in whole or in part for a valid air ticket for that flight.” L.I. 1050, Section 6(2). They also specify the amount of the Bond as ¢40,000.00 (as at 1975… with no review yet.)

ICCIA is questioning why the local Bond “equivalent to the sum total of the tour price paid by each tourist per flight” (GTB) has not been recalled and sources from the GTB indicate that the Director of Ghana Travel Ltd made a phone call from her hideout to explain why the Bond should not be used for its purpose. It is rather interesting that a mere operator could direct a whole Ministry and the GTB, the main regulatory body as to when or how a Bond should be administered. ICCIA is however hopeful that the MOTMOCC, GTB and the GCAA that sit on the panel to grant ATOL licences, without regard to consumer protection rights, should seek inspiration from the nine advanced countries with established consumer protection mechanisms for the aviation sector and learn about their procedures.

If the value of the Bond should be as underlined above, then Ghana Travel Ltd must have paid not less than $116,500.00 per flight as guarantee (233 [email protected]$500 (average)). The end of Ghana Travel is justifying the means by which she cooked her ATOL licence. Heads must roll for transparency and accountability to exist.

ICCIA has already called for a review of the ATOL L.I. 1050 to reflect modern times and the re-composition of the panel to include representation from a Consumer Protection Association. A position which was unequivocally confirmed by the GTB.

ICCIA is also calling for the establishment of an Escrow Account into which all monies paid by travellers to the Travel Organiser shall be kept until such a time as the said flight has been executed and passengers have arrived at their destinations safely.

It is also recommended that the GTB establishes a Tourism Complaints Desk to handle consumer issues in the industry.

And if the Government of Ghana would spend a little more than just 1.9% of the total annual budget on Tourism (and stop envying Gambia that spends over 10%), a major foreign exchange earner that has the potential of reaching No. 1, quality capacity development strategies will push the industry forward more than overambitious projects with no financial backing.

Contacts:

ICCIA – J. Y. T. Lukaz -0244 519 785, 0244 267 914, 0244 616 987, Website: www.icciaghana.org Email: [email protected]

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