Allegations have been directed at Portugal-based company, AVA World Travel, by at least three travel brands from across the UK, Japan and South Africa, for fabricating representation at major global travel shows, and for theft of the monies paid for this service.

Warwick Blow, CEO of Safari In Style, based in the UK, contacted Tourism Update with information that he had paid €500 to AVA World Travel, which had approached his company with the proposal to represent them at three international trade fairs: VakantieSalon Antwerpen which took place in January, Holiday Fair Brussels in February, and ITB Berlin in March of this year.

In the proposal, AVA Founder, Michael da Silva, had claimed that he was in partnership with Heartland Japan – the travel subsidiary of Liberta, based in Japan, which had previously hosted him on a FAM trip in Japan – and would be exhibiting the offerings of Safari In Style at Heartland’s stand at the VakantieSalon show.

Da Silva sent photographs via What’s App to Blow, which he claimed were taken at the VakantieSalon. However, it was discovered that the images had been copied from the personal Facebook page of the CEO of Heartland, and were in fact taken at the VJTM show in Tokyo the previous year. That the photo had originally been posted on social media in 2018, before the VakantieSalon show, was confirmed by Nicola Akiko Micklem, Travel Consultant at Heartland Japan.

When Blow confronted Da Silva about this, he cut communications with Blow, blocking contact with the Safari In Style CEO, and “disappeared”.

Tourism Update contacted Micklem to verify the source of the photographs. She commented: “As 'proof' that Da Silva was at these shows, he sent [Blow] various pictures that appeared to show [myself] and Heartland Japan’s CEO networking/meeting clients at these shows. However, these photos could have only been taken from Heartland Japan’s CEO's personal Facebook page, and are photos from completely different occasions – the VJTM show in Tokyo, [and] National Geographic offices in London – none of which have any connection to Da Silva or AVA World Travel.”

The same photos were sent to a separate AVA client – a lodge operator based in South Africa. Tourism Update contacted the operator, who confirmed: “I received exactly the same ones!”

WhatsApp message from Da Silva to Safari In Style.

WhatsApp message from Da Silva to SA lodge operator.

Tourism Update attempted to contact Da Silva telephonically and via email, to request a response to the allegations, but a voice mail said the number was ‘no longer a working number’; and no email response had, at the time of publishing, been received.