Checked by DECO is a service that analyses the commercial positioning between travel agencies and consumers. “This platform is for those people who want to travel in the summer and don’t know which travel agency they should choose. They may have had some bad experiences in other years and want to make sure that everything will work this time”, said Paulo Fonseca, coordinator of DECO’s legal and economic department and responsible for the check by DECO project.
When travelling there are many concerns that consumers share in common, perhaps because they have had bad experiences in the past, or they do not know which travel agency to contact. Therefore, there are some concerns that Paulo Fonseca highlighted from his experience working in this field.
"The first issue that consumers have right from the start is what we call compliance, making sure that the place you are choosing is the best, making sure that you don't have unwanted surprises when you arrive because you think you are buying nights' stay in a hotel with a sea view and then you get there and the view is not of the sea," he said.
Other examples "are situations where we want to understand if what we are paying is the price of the trip if they won't have additional costs when they get there", but also if it is necessary to get visas or passports, "all this information is very important because, as a consumer, we run the risk of not having the room we would like or even not being able to enter the country".
Something that is very important and often ignored is what to do when something goes wrong. Problems can happen, but consumers want to know they can trust the agency when the storm hits. They want to feel confident that their agencies will be there for them when something doesn't go as planned.
What criteria do these agencies have to meet?
There are many requirements that the agencies have to meet in order to be considered "Checked by DECO". From the information they provide in their flyers, to the information they give the consumer about the trip. In addition, there are mystery shoppers who visit the shops to verify the treatment given to the customer.
DECO checks one of two things - the shop's establishment or the website of the company – sometimes both. "We can have a situation where a shop meets the requirements, but when it comes to the website, we also have criteria like the ease of access to information, avoiding unclear practices that lead consumers to buy things they don't want to," he said.
"We analyse all the documentation and, in the end, if we consider that the agency has met the criteria and is at the top in terms of good practices in the market, we certify that agency as Checked by DECO. So we consider this to be more of a service and not so much a label, because we work together with the agencies to make sure that, even if they don't meet some requirements at the beginning, they can improve their service”, Paulo Fonseca added.
Although DECO is extremely demanding in its selection, the balance has been very positive. "As a rule, when the agency contacts us, we analyse the agency, work out with them some details to be changed. The agency makes the changes, and within a short period of time, the agency is checked by DECO. It's a quicker process than you think and, above all, it's a digital process."
The advantage is that when the consumer chooses a travel agency that has been checked by DECO, they have the guarantee that they have already been approved by DECO.
This platform was created within the scope of a partnership, which has already been in place for several years, between DECO and APAVT (Associação Portuguesa das Agências de Viagens e Turismo).
Paula Martins is a fully qualified journalist, who finds writing a means of self-expression. She studied Journalism and Communication at University of Coimbra and recently Law in the Algarve. Press card: 8252