Cyber crime is becoming so rampant in the tourism industry that one established operator has recently had to rebrand in order avoid market confusion. 

Allan Eccles, Owner of Falcon Africa Safaris, which was founded in 1990, renamed his company Falcon Africa due to a relatively new Zimbabwean company emerging with a similar name.

He said a number of properties had contacted him because the Zimbabwean company was cloning suppliers’ websites to obtain clients who think they are dealing direct with the website to the lodge. 

“We have sent circulars to our suppliers to reassure them that we do not do this and to distance ourselves from this operator,” says Eccles.

He said this particular operator still had copycat websites in operation and that the easiest course of action was for lodges to withdraw STO rates for operators that mimicked websites.

Dennis Jones, Managing Director of Wildlife Safari Consultants, told Tourism Update that the Victoria Falls Hotel had been plagued with copy sites for years and that while some of the pseudo sites did have tiny disclaimers right at the bottom of the page, the average traveller hardly ever read that far. 

Jones said he had had clients in the past who were misled by false sites. “They were promised availability that could not be delivered, or rates that were not available when they attempted to make a booking at the quoted website rate. These were real clients and they eventually had to book accommodation through us at other properties in Vic Falls.”

When Jones discussed the issue with the GM of Victoria Falls Hotel, Giulio Togni, he mentioned that he was aware of the copy sites and was taking legal action to have them removed, however due to cross national jurisdictions this has not been easy.

Tourism Update will continue to follow up on cyber piracy stories, with more to follow. If you have any piracy stories, send them to kylieg@nowmedia.co.za.