With summer being travel season for most Filipinos, the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday warned travelers against bogus travel agencies that offer tour packages online that are too good to be true.

In a statement, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo advised the public choosing tour agencies to be “WISE,” an acronym that stands for the four pointers that travelers can use to avoid being scammed by tour agencies that advertise on social media.

Four pointers

These pointers are: “Work out your travel plans; Identify tour and travel agencies; See tourism quality seal; and Engage accredited service providers only.”

“We are in close coordination with DOT regional offices to make sure that the list of accredited establishments and services are updated and posted in strategic locations, such as airports, terminals and ports, for easy reference,” Teo said.

Tourism quality seal

Travelers can gauge the authenticity of travel agencies by checking the tourism quality seal displayed in their offices or on their websites and social media accounts, Teo said.

Any DOT-accredited travel agency found involved in illegal activities would immediately be stripped of their accreditation, she added.

Among the complaints the DOT is investigating is the case of Paulyn Erica David, who recounted on her Facebook account her family’s “worst and stressful” experience after they booked a two-day, one-night package tour for 12 to the resort island of Calaguas in Vinzons, Camarines Norte, on March 29 and 30.

The travel agency’s service vehicle from Manila to Bicol was inconvenient, carried other passengers, made unnecessary stops, and failed to arrive on time at the Paracale port from where the group was supposed to be ferried to Calaguas, David said.

On the way home, the lack of coordination as to which vehicle was assigned to them resulted in the group’s baggage being left in another vehicle.

April, May travelers

The DOT will look into the incident, said Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre, also the department’s spokesperson.

According to the DOT’s 2016 statistics, about 7.6 million Filipinos traveled around the country in April and May, with Cebu province being the top tourist destination.

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