We always hope that everything will go as planned when we schedule a trip. Of course, we do prepare for any eventuality but, deep down, we hope it will be minimal or with no significant consequences. Probably the worst, and that we never planned for when preparing for a vacation, is getting stranded in a foreign country. And this is exactly what happened with dozens of Lebanese tourists.
These Lebanese tourists were victims of a scam by an unlicensed travel agency. They realized what had happened as soon as they arrived in Marmaris and faced the nightmare: The hotel reservations and the return tickets were fake. Since the travel agency did not book any hotel room, the passengers spent their first night on the floor until the situation was resolved.
The owner of the agency seems to have fled the country. Thus, a relative of one of the victims tried to contact the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism to seek help. Unfortunately at first, not much could be done. It was only later on that an agreement was settled between the Higher Relief Committee and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation.
The Higher Relief Committee paid half the price of all return plane tickets. The other half was paid by the travel agencies used as a middleman for the bookings. Fortunately, 171 tourists just landed in Beirut's airport and the rest is expected to be in Lebanon within the next couple of days at the latest.
All branches of the agency were closed for investigation on Saturday. A plane related to the owner of the agency tried to take off from Beirut's airport but was stopped just in time. The plane's crew was detained by the Internal Security Forces (ISF) for proper investigation.
Major General Mohammad Kheir, the head of the Higher Relief Committee, has legally indicted the agency and all involved with it on the charges of stealing public funds.
Even though proper measures were taken, we urge everyone to be careful with such scams and to double-check everything, hotel reservations and airline bookings, before embarking on a next trip to avoid such painful situation.