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


Friday, June 5, 2015

The BTB Branding: How to Be Eurocentric & Why Not in Belize

It’s been two years since the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) launched the “Discover How to Be” promotional tourism video (“Discover How to Be”, 2013). However, it was until this week that I encountered the video on Facebook and I must express a grave dismay with the production. I would like to call attention to the segment (time slot: 1:11-1:20) which displays the text “be primitive” and “be peculiar” with our Maya archeological sites in the background. The representation of our indigenous heritage and people as “primitive” and “peculiar” is the perpetuation of Eurocentric discourse which facilitated the enslavement and exploitation of indigenous peoples and non-Europeans in general. To allow this representation of Belize for local and international consumption is disrespectful and prejudicial.  


The use of the terms “primitive” and “peculiar” in this context are derived from and are reflective of European colonization, enslavement, and hegemony over non-Europeans. These historical processes established a set of violent terminologies which carried great weight in how Europeans viewed and interacted with non-Westerners.  On the one hand, Europeans were represented as “civilized”, “advanced”, “cultured”, and “intelligent”. On the “Other” hand, we were “savage”, “primitive”, “pagan”, and “barbaric”. It is from this history in which Europeans are announced as “normal”, “developed”, and “civilized” that the phrases “be primitive” and “be peculiar” locates its common-sense appeal, touristic romance, and vulgarity.


Discover How To - "Be Primitive" 

As a post-colonial people, we must be conscious and resistant against the dominant discourses which have disenfranchised us. The use of these terms retrogrades the movement and research that have sought to do away with the Eurocentric representation of our Belizean history and identity (Hyde, 1995; Iyo, 2000; Macpherson, 2007; Shoman, 1994). Couched in a touristic video specifically targeted to an audience who are invited to abandon their “civilized” office jobs, the use of the terms “be primitive – peculiar- native”, have once again made us fall victim to colonial discourse from which we must free ourselves.



It is imperative that the BTB take the necessary actions to rectify this miss-representation of our Belizean people, history, and identity. The longer we allow this video to be displayed on our websites will only increase the normalization and promotion of a Eurocentric view of Belize. Students, teachers, tour-guides, and academics should play a key role in ensuring that our social networks are sensitized about such representations which do not do justice to our self-image as a nation.  


Rolando Cocom





References:

Hyde, E. X. (1995). X communication: Selected writings.  Belize City, Belize: Angelus Press.