FOUR VILLAGES INN: A LOCAL TOUR OPERATOR/TRAVEL AGENCY FREE ZONE

Posted on May 19, 2009

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This new post and others will  deal with doing business in this developing country, so challenging, now there’s a euphemism,  that I often tell our Canadian High Commissioner that I sometimes think it is immoral to promote Canadian investment here. “Then why are you here?” you may ask. Charity and I  are here operating our lifestyle enterprise….small and meaningful. We have really nothing to lose if we don’t have mass appeal. Others???? We can take a stand; we do not have to compromise on our principles…We believe in change too.

It’s official, well almost.  Four Villages Inn is now a tour operator/travel agency free zone. That means we will probably not get business through the local Ghanaian travel industry. Foreign companies from Mali, Togo, South Africa, the Netherlands, U.K. and the U.S.  will hopefully continue to deal with FOUR VILLAGES INN direct.

At the beginning of  our web site, http://www.fourvillages.com, you’ll read, “WONDERFUL…you found us! If you like what you see, you can book with us directly by filling out our easy to use Reservation Form. Please do not leave it to your travel agent.We are just too small to pay their hefty commissions. And if you have additional needs, you can always e-mail us directly. Thank you.”

This was included because the only time local travel agencies booked tourists at Four Villages Inn was when the tourists  asked specifically for us. Never, and I mean never, would travel agencies send their clients to us despite all our marketing, awards, and most important our reputation. Now why’s that you may ask?

This is best answered by relating an occurrence that took place when we first opened back in 2000. I approached a well known travel agency that specializes in catering to upmarket foreign clients. After giving my spiel, the executive director of the agency leaned back in her chair, raised her arm and rubbed thumb and index finger and asked, “What’s in for me?”  Well, I said the ten percent commission and the peace of mind that her guests while in Kumasi would be guaranteed a comfortable, safe and stimulating stay.”

Then came the litany of reasons why that agency wouldn’t use Four Villages Inn. First, and most shocking, she said a large percentage of their clients were African-American and she didn’t know how they would take to a black-white couple. Then she said that we couldn’t cope with big groups…Over the years, we’ve seen this agency’s small touring vans and cars at a number of Kumasi hotels. Undoubtedly, these hotels have come up with more than the 10% and undoubtedly, in their competition to keep this travel agency and others loyal,  monies and resources are diverted to keeping travel agencies happy. Needless to say this is a recipe for disaster and all too frequently facilities and service suffer. NOT SO AT FOUR VILLAGES THOUGH!

Now, just last month, I had a call. The same executive director  from the travel agency was on the phone for ME making a booking for a small group of tourists. I was aghast. It had been almost ten years since I had last heard her voice. When I asked her if she had sent the people to Four Villages and they had not asked for us, she indicated that it was her who had recommended and sent the people  to FOUR VILLAGES INN.

When the people arrived, it wasn’t long before I discovered that they had requested FOUR VILLAGES INN following their research on the web! They also said that the tourists had to insist on coming to FOUR VILLAGES given the fact that the guide had tried to divert them to another hotel!

On the second morning, this party got into conversation with other guests at the breakfast table. My cell phone rang and the Executive director asked me if everything was alright. I later deduced that the tour guide and driver must have informed their madam that the guests had not appeared and they were off schedule.

I simply told her to ask the guests….and after one of them said everything was OK, I went into the kitchen closed the door and told her that she had lied to me… So that’s that!

Recently, a second Ghanaian travel agency company, which is the in-country  representative of  a major worldwide travel agency based in the U.S., tried the same trick-diverting the clients to another hotel despite having a firm booking here at FOUR VILLAGES INN. And again, the tourists stuck to their guns and insisted on coming here. Furthermore, they had paid for  and expected  a meal on arrival. I told them the company had made no mention of this to us…

This time I e-mailed the company in the U.S. to tell them of the shenanigans that the company was up to. A few years ago, this same U.S. company had sent a representative all the way to Ghana from the States to check us and other establishments out. They approved FOUR VILLAGES and I felt a moral obligation to tell them about this situation. What’s more, I copied the e-mail to the local company in Accra. So that’s that!

Business suicide. Perhaps….but somebody has got to start standing up to these unethical travel companies that surely are having a negative impact on the Ghanaian tourism industry.

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