UNPAID DUES

Travel agents decry over Sh434 million owed in pending bills

Agents have not been in operation for weeks due to travel restrictions across the globe, denting their business

In Summary

•The funds, according to KATA chairman Mohammed Wanyoike, are needed to cater for refunds to clients who have had to cancel their travel arrangements occasioned by restricted movement in and out of the country due to the global pandemic

•The agents said airlines putting them in a tough spot with customers, issuing vouchers instead of cash refunds for flight cancellations.

A Kenya Airways Embraer plane at the airline's JKIA hanger. KQ has grounded its fleet after ban on international flights over Covid-19/
A Kenya Airways Embraer plane at the airline's JKIA hanger. KQ has grounded its fleet after ban on international flights over Covid-19/
Image: FILE

The Kenya Association of Travel Agents wants the government and airlines to speed up payment of cash owed.

The funds, according to KATA chairman Mohammed Wanyoike, are needed to cater for refunds to clients who have had to cancel their travel arrangements occasioned by restricted movement in and out of the country due to the global pandemic.

“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.

He said the government owes travel agents over Sh434 million in pending bills.

The agents said airlines putting them in a tough spot with customers, issuing vouchers instead of cash refunds for flight cancellations.

“This has also led to a bad stalemate between the customers and travel agents owing to the inflexibility demonstrated by the airlines issuing the refund vouchers,” Wanyoike said.

He added that KATA had been working closely with government ministries to ensure that funds owed are remitted to agents in good time to allow their businesses remain sustainable, especially during this COVID-19 period where the travel industry has ground to a stop.

Agents have not been in operation for weeks due to travel restrictions across the globe, denting their business.

“The only business we are handling right now is refunding our clients and this has led to the closure of many agencies who are operating on negative right now,” Wanyoike said.

He added that with the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, which has disrupted life and business, agents are bracing for a very difficult year.

“From a robust year where Kenya received over 2 million international guests, an increase of 37.7 per cent as compared to 2018, this year we are down to zero. This has put millions of jobs at risk,” he said.

He urged clients who have had to cancel their travel arrangement to exercise patience as agents work to resolve the refund impasse.

“KATA is founded on integrity, professionalism and transparency. We are pursuing the refunds and other monies owed persistently to ensure that each traveller receives their refunds,” Wanyoike said.