During a recession, every market sector has to work a bit harder to keep down costs and to be more competitive with prices. It's unfortunate but when the consumer is determined to find lower prices, there are occasionally rogue traders looking to capitalise. The Golf and Travel industry are not immune to these kind of problems and here in Murcia, Golf Resorts and players have experienced this phenomena first hand.
Club Murcia was notified first by individual players and then by the Golf Resorts, that a number of bogus Tour Operators were taking advantage of players by acting as "Authorised" Agents.
"Unauthorised" Tour Operators & Agents have asked players to pay for Green Fees which cannot be redeemed on arrival at the Golf Resorts, as result players have lost their money.
In the majority of cases, the reservations don't exist at all and players have been left both out of pocket and unable to play.
Club Murcia have received several occasions this year to publish a warning to players and as such we have been monitoring the situation carefully.
Before we highlight some guidelines, we must point out that the majority of players (80%) booking through an Authorised Tour Operator or Agent using one of the three main Agents (of which Club Murcia is one).
The problem exists for the remaining 20% of players that use a variety of other Agents, some of which are not authorised.
Please remember that only a very small number of the many thousands of players arriving in Murcia have been affected.
Here is a brief guide to help players decide when making a reservation.
There are two ways to make a Tee Time reservation in Murcia;
1. Book direct with the Golf Resort or
2. Book through an Authorised Tour Operator or Agent.
N.B For a Tour Operator or Agent to be authorised to sell Greens Fees, they must have a formal Agreement/Contract with the individual Golf Resort.
What are the key differences?
1. Players making a reservation direct with the Golf Resort will not be asked to pay in advance for the Green Fees but they will pay the full public rate on arrival.
2. Players making a reservation through an Authorised Tour Operator or Agent can receive substantial discounts on the Green Fees and players may be asked to pay in advance.
Why are players sometimes asked to pay in advance?
In general, the Golf Resorts feel it is reasonable for players to pay in advance if they are going to receive a Green Fee discount.
Why do Authorised Tour Operators and Agents have different payment methods?
There are different options available to Authorised Tour Operators and Agents and these are reflected in the payments terms, for example:
1. Nothing to pay in advance - Players generally obtain a modest discount. (0% deposit)
2. Full payment in advance - Players generally obtain a larger discount. (100% deposit)
In the case of Club Murcia, our clients are international players and as such we prefer to offer larger discounts but without the need to pay in full. Effectively, we have a compromise solution, with a substantially reduced deposit which both satisfies the needs of Golf Resorts and benefits the players.
If players book in advance, is there a Booking Fee added?
Whether you pay nothing in advance or payment in full, players are only paying for the Green Fee. Most respected Authorised Tour Operators and Agents do not add a Booking Fee.
Some Authorised Tour Operators and Agents do however add additional costs, these are typically:
1. Cancellations Fees: Some players can be charged to amend or cancel their reservations. In many cases, players will be charged the full amount if they cancel within 30 days of play.
2. Credit Card Charges: Some players can be charged an additional 2-3% surcharge on the full booking total.
In the case of Club Murcia, we don't believe in booking fees nor do we charge to amend or cancel reservations. We offer a full refund for 60 days after payment but not within 48 hours of play. (In practice, if players need to cancel within 48 hours they can re-book, request a credit note against future reservations or on a case by case basis, request a refund).
In addition, Club Murcia do not charge Credit Card charges, we believe these are standard business costs which should be absorbed by the Authorised Tour Operator or Agent and not passed on to the customer.
How can players protect themselves from a bogus Tour Operator?
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to easily identify a bogus Tour Operator but the following may give rise for concern:
1. A poor website with limited or inconsistent information.
2. No telephone number or the use of a mobile number (mobile numbers start with a 6 in Spain)
3. Contact email addresses are Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail for example. (Most businesses "send and receive" corporate email addresses associated with the business, for example @clubmurcia.com)
4. The prices are considerably cheaper than a main Authorised Tour Operator or Agent.
Even with our experience of running Club Murcia, some of the websites being used by bogus Tour Operators are however very professional and this makes them difficult to identify as rogue traders.
What can players do if they have any doubts?
1. Call the Tour Operator or Agent and ask them several questions! If they are a professional agent they will be more than happy to answer them for you.
2. Call one of the Golf Resorts direct and ask for a list of their main Authorised Tour Operators and Agents.
3. If you have doubts about a particular Authorised Tour Operator or Agent, ask the Golf Resort if they know them and if so, how many players do they bring every day/week/month/year etc. If the answer is zero, they may not be an official agent. If the answer is only a few players a year, they may not be a well established business.
How do you know if you have been a victim?
1. Did you receive a receipt for your payment?
2. Did you receive a voucher?
In all cases, players must receive a "Voucher" from the Authorised Tour Operator or Agent after making a reservation, these are redeemed on arrival at the Golf Resorts.
3. Did you have difficulty changing or amending your reservation?
4. Did you try to cancel but are still waiting for your refund?
4. Are you unable to contact them or find their website several days/weeks after paying?
If you're worried, you can always ring the Golf Resort to double check your reservation (however, if they have your reservation in the system and everything is ok, you must never try to change your reservation. Always make changes via the Tour Operator or Agent. This is very important for both the Golf Resort and the Tour Operator and Agent concerned)
What can players do if they have lost their money?
Sadly, there are not too many options available however you can ensure that you pay via a Credit Card or an internationally recognised payment processor such as PayPal. If there is a problem, you may be able to claim a refund.
Finally, some other things to consider:
Most of the websites run by the bogus Tour Operators and Agents will only be around for a few weeks. The domain names are often vague and can easily be confused with another agents.
Because the websites are new, players will also not be able to find them easily via Google. To compensate bogus Tour Operators and Agents will buy Sponsored Links and Adwords in order to get them to the top of the rankings.
In some cases, they may use the names of established Authorised Tour Operator and Agents. This is an illegal use of trademark and an indication that they are not what they seem.
For example, if you search for "Club Murcia" or "clubmurcia" and come across any Sponsored Links, these would not associated with ClubMurcia.Com.
Finally, if you have any doubts contact Club Murcia, we look after several thousand players each year and we offer professional independent advice and an unrivalled level of service.
Whether you are a client of Club Murcia or not, that's not a problem at all. Remember we are Golfers and always willing to offer help and advice.