“It cost me a lot of work and a lot of energy, but most of all, they ruined my trip,” Gabriela Aragon, owner of Aragon Travel with Travel Planners International in Pembroke Pines, Florida, said of her recent experience with Australian wholesaler Excite Holidays, who left agents in the lurch as it suspended operations.
“Excite Holidays is currently in the final stages of commercial discussions, and as such, we have suspended the operation of our platform until the discussions are completed,” according to the statement posted Thursday on Excite’s trade portal.
Aragon said she began noticing inconsistencies as early as October, but it wasn’t until her Dec. 24 vacation to Vietnam with her husband that it all came to a head, when she was in the Dallas airport and saw other agents posting in a Facebook group that pre-paid bookings for clients were not being honored.
The veteran travel advisor called Excite regarding her services booked with them – 12 in Vietnam and two in Dubai – and a representative told her a computer glitch canceled two vouchers for her arrival, and they would be reinstated with new vouchers.
Aragon asked the representative to check the remainder of her reservations before boarding the 15-hour flight, hoping for the best. When she landed in Shanghai, Aragon saw the two new vouchers, but nothing in regards to the rest of her trip. She emailed again, asking to confirm that the rest of her vouchers were okay.
She still didn’t receive an email and called the main office, though no one picked up. The next day, now the 26th, there was still no word. Aragon said she tried to connect with them through email, phone and chat, to no avail – “That’s when I started to panic.”
Aragon asked the front desk at the hotel to help her reconfirm her services, which were all with different suppliers, only to find everything was canceled. She had to rebook the remainder of her trip, and it being the holidays, it was not easy to find space.
“I was on hold for five hours. I called the offices in Greece, U.S., Singapore, Australia. I opened the chat and had it open for 26 hours before, finally, someone came and said they were too busy,” Aragon said. “I told fellow agents in my Facebook group this is red flag.”
While Aragon was able to get herself and her husband on new tours, she had to pay again. “It was a nightmare … I had a premium luxury cruise booked and ended up going in a ship that I don’t have words to describe. It was two days on the boat with no shower.”
In the meantime, Aragon was contacting Excite’s director of sales and BDM – both of whom she worked with before – but received the same out-of-office messages that they were on holiday in Australia.
“I was not able to speak with a human being until Dec. 31, when somebody in the customer service department emailed me, not even an apology, but a simple email saying, ‘We process refunds twice a month and we will do yours in two weeks.’”
She never heard from Excite’s sales director or BDM, and when she emailed them again, she received identical out-of-office messages that they will be out until Jan. 13.
“At least this happened to me and not to a client,” she said, adding that so many other agents were affected as well.
One colleague, Aragon said, had a client check in at the hotel to find her room had not been paid for – the card on file from Excite was declined.
Aragon said she is now working on getting a refund for all the canceled services through Excite and has to rebook some clients traveling in May, for whom she hopes she can get the same price and availability. As for the three pending commission checks, “who knows if I am getting that.”
“It’s my money, my time, my work. You feel it could happen with any company and you lose faith, because [Excite] looked established and big.”
Travel Market Report reached out to Excite Holidays for comment but had not heard back by press time.