Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Paycation or Payscam: Belize’s New Certified Travel Agency

Introduction 

Two weeks ago, I saw that a lady posted on Facebook that she had completed a training to be a Certified Travel Agent. She appeared interested in doing bookings for Belizeans. I was a bit puzzled by this. I would have expected that it’s much more lucrative to book tours for international visitors to Belize than being interest in booking Belizeans out of country. Thinking little of it, I just continued scrolling my Facebook feed.

Certificate received by Belizean

Today, I became suspicious when I saw another Belizean posted that he too had completed a program and is now a Certified Travel Agent. I was compelled to do a little investigation. It turns out the certificate are being issued by a company named Xstream Travel operating out of the United States.

Upon visiting the website, my suspicions become more acute. I am aware of the general features of website scams and this had all of them, reflecting the handiwork of an amateur. It is a basic website with no substantive content about the company and the training. The sole purpose of the website is to lure visitors in. Users must email them to get superficial instructions to become “Certified” which Idid.

I am treating this seriously because it would appear that that a few dozen Belizeans have already signed up to the program. The company recently had some representatives in Belize to recruit new members. They appeared to have done a good job. They got air time (see Open Your Eyes Interview) and we now have Belizeans who claim to be “Executives” of the company.

Blaton Banks - National Expansion Executive on Open Your Eyes

After examining this, I am of the opinion that Xstream Travel and Paycation are scams. Xstream and Paycation, which are managed by David Manning, have saturated the internet with many articles and videos to present themselves positively but careful analysis quickly begins to warning bells.

Warning Bells

You must hear the warning bells ringing when:
  • You are lured into getting rich speeches and promises to travel the world and that if you fail it’s because you did not try hard enough
  • Paycation and Xstream Travel websites have no substantive content about their employees, policies, and training programs.
  • An initial email sent to Xstream Travel <support@xstreamtravel.com> gets you a response from the CEO – the company has no secretary or sales representative? (Emailhere)
  • The certificates issued by Xstream Travel are in italics and not a penned signature (Certificate Received by Belizean)  
  • You are asked to give Paycation about $2,000 BZD a year and get chump change in return for having your friends sign up pay the same to become “Certified Travel Consultants”! (Seeemail correspondence)
  • Paycation has saturated the internet with cheezy content to overwhelm search results with their propaganda (Example 1,  Example 2, Example 3, Example 4)
  • The ‘employees’ don’t know their history and to keep their story straight (Testament 1, Testament 2).
  • The flyer for an international travel agency looks like this (Click here)
  • Representatives are engaged in luring people to other get rich deals (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3, Example 4)
  • 37,000 people have taken the “training course” and none have failed and no pre-job or computer skills are needed (Testament 1, Testament 2)
These are the alarms that ought to be sounding before signing up with Xstream/Paycation. There are also economic mechanisms of how the scam works in the name of multi-level marketing. For this, I recommend looking at the analysis by Ethan Vanderbuilt


Ethan Vanderbuilt opinion on Paycation

I anticipate Belizeans who have registered for this program must really believe in the company. They may have even collected their commission for recruiting others. However, give it some time, and the worst is yet to come, if not for them, for other recruits. 

Besides these ethical complaints, there are also legal dimensions to Paycation operating in Belize. What are the legal requirements and procedures to be a travel agent in Belize? Are they registered? I have requested a response to this question from colleagues at the Belize Tourism Board and will be posting it as soon as it becomes available. 



Recommended article:
Ethan Vanderbuilt (2015). “Paycation Scam? Yes It Is In My Opinion!”. Retrieved from: http://ethanvanderbuilt.com/2015/03/28/paycation-scam-opinion/

Xstream Travel Advanced Agent Training Manual 2013