Santa Fe-bound tourists fall victim to scams; Local gov’t eyes return of QR codes
CEBU CITY, Philippines – The local government of Santa Fe in Bantayan Island is mulling the reimplementation of quick-response (QR) codes if it meant putting a stop on scams targeting tourists who want to visit their town.
Mayor Ithamar Espinosa confirmed that at least eight tourists reported to have fallen victims to fraudsters who duped them into shelling out money in exchange for a room in Santa Fe, Bantayan Island.
In an interview with CDN Digital, Espinosa said they planned to hold a consultative meeting this Monday, April 10, to discuss policies in preventing this from happening again.
According to Councilor James Philip Lao, who sits as the chairperson of the municipality’s tourism committee, the victims claimed to have been victimized by a fake travel and tour operator offering Santa Fe-based tourist packages.
“All victims shared the same story,” Lao said.
The scammers would ask for their victims to pay a downpayment for a reservation in a resort or similar establishments, coupled with urgent statements like ‘last room available’, he added.
“We’re really fully booked for the Holy Week,” said Lao in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Santa Fe is a popular, summer tourist destination, both for local and foreign tourists. During Holy Week, resorts and other tourist establishments offering accommodations are usually fully booked.
The victims, in the meantime, have been provided with accommodation, shouldered by the local government, Espinosa said.
In addition, the mayor said they are looking at reviving the use of QR-codes to ensure that inbound tourists only pay to accredited establishments.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the local government of Santa Fe introduced the use of QR-codes to help them monitor and control the influx of people arriving in their town.
Guests can only get their QR codes from establishments where they will be staying.
Espinosa also said they plan to publish a list of accredited or registered resorts and establishments, both in-person and online.
“All of these will be discussed during our upcoming consultative meeting,” he said.
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