From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

AFRIKASGEMS Sincerely Apologises to Affected Travelers & Thanks over 600 Satisfied Customers
By Desmond L. Bishop
Jan 5, 2010, 19:26

Managing Travel, Heritage Tourism and Hospitality with a cultural flair!

January 4, 2010

In the past week or so, many of you may have seen an article written by someone who refers to me as a 'childhood friend' Mr. Kwame Fitzjohn, about a bad experience he and a few other valued clients had after paying for tickets through my company Afrikasgems Tour.  Although I understand the rationale underlying the article, I do believe that its intent and purport was masked by the manifested failure to present the true rendition of facts, and thus tended to create a false impression of my business and me. I take full responsibility not my family or parents. I had not responded sooner to the allegations leveled against me with regard to this small group we tried to organize through Royal Air Maroc because my utmost priority was to ensure that all the clients made their way to and from Freetown at all cost.  Until that goal was accomplished (just spoke to the first of our returning passengers at 6.00p today), I did not think it was appropriate to respond to the contentious accusations levied against me.

I am taking this opportunity to publicly apologize to those clients and families who have recently suffered inconveniences, as a result of internal business misunderstanding within the Afrikasgems Tour/Travel Center business organization and Royal Air Maroc. From the beginning Afrikasgems Tour has taken full responsibility and as you will see below has been working proactively with various organizations & airlines to provide solutions. All 11 passengers who had problems on December 12, 2009 were re accommodated with confirmed returns starting on January 4, 2010. The cancelled bookings for other dates including December 19th, 2009 IS BEING PROCESSED FOR REFUNDS INFULL.
Internal problems and my lack of focus on this small group led to the problems we encountered just days before the first part of the group were due to depart December 12th. With slow/incomplete payments, returned checks & credit card payment problems managing this small group became a problem.  With this holiday season being one of the most highly travelled to Sierra Leone, there were many RULE CHANGES which we missed and managing all accounts left a very small room for error. In addition, our shared IATA privileges (the agency governing body) had been placed on a bonded probation which I was NOT aware of.  In short, the faith that I placed on others similar to that placed on me by most of my traveling public was shattered.  For this I also take full responsibility and I am most contrite.

In the past few days, since the article written by Kwame Fitzjohn, has been in circulation, I have sought to quietly make restitution or provide assurances to some of our other clients that their return tickets are secured. With regards to this fact I can confirm that each person who was booked on the Air Maroc flight and accepted our tickets as part of the continuing group from New York-Casablanca-Freetown and has made contact with our office in Freetown has a firm return seat, many due to arrive TODAY.  In addition, since the question has been raised, there are NO CHANGES to any of the other individual tickets done on Sn Brussels, BMI, South African, Delta or Arik Air. THE COST OF THE TICKETS FROM THE ROYAL AIR MAROC GROUP THAT WERE VOIDED WILL BE PROCESED FOR REFUND.  AFRIKASGEMS WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR OBVIOUS PENALTIES THAT WILL BE LEVIED BY THE AIRLINE.

I am aware that my attempts to make full restitution is inadequate in light of the holiday season and the fact that  inconveniences suffered by the group as a whole were unnecessary and for this I truly apologize. On Monday Dec 14, two of my clients Ms. P and Mr. S were offered & accepted  alternative routing through  Air France via Lagos and SN Brussels directly to Freetown.  Although the tickets for this alternative routing were bought at a PREMIUM rate, they were fully paid for by Afrikasgems Tour. This was done in order to accommodate and alleviate the stress caused by the contractual snafu already created. In addition one of the client's mother had unfortunately passed away and it was extremely important for me to do everything in my power to make his immediate trip possible.

To shed some light on Kwame Fitzjohns accusations, when I first became aware that my clients had encountered problems, I immediately authorized full payment of hotel accommodation, food, phone cards for communication to relatives, and additional miscellaneous services to all concerned costing thousands of dollars.  The same services were provided in Casablanca and some clients received and made use of our REGULAR Ecowater transit and direct transportation to their respective homes on arrival in Freetown.  All this was done in an effort to alleviate additional stress and further inconveniences.

Mr. Kwame Fitzjohn, Mrs Kathryn Eleady-Cole and Donald Eleady Cole were also desperate to leave on December 14 and tickets were purchased on their behalf on SN BRUSSELS.  In checking on everyone's progress, I was advised by the airline that the last three were listed as arrive but not boarded for their ROUNDTRIP  SN Brussels . Reasons given were the lateness of check-in and excessive amount of luggage with no time for screening during embargo period- 12 suitcases were recorded.  Mr Fitzjohn did not wish to travel without Donald, quite understandable.  A considerable amount of expense was also incurred to cancel the three tickets.  In Casablanca, the same was true (cancel fees and all) as our 3 paid seats had to again be cancelled rejected by Mr Eleady-Cole.
I apologise not only to the persons who have suffered any embarrassment or delayed trips or disappointments as a result of this contractual snafu between me, my business partners and AIR MAROC, but also to the hundreds of people who have been my loyal clients and who have expressed that degree of trust in their past business dealings with me. If I have let you down, it is not because I have been fraudulent, or have converted funds in my possession for the purchase of goods, rather a combination of factors led to the problems with the AIR MAROC group. To the other 600 plus clients that helped make this a banner year, you are ALWAYS APPRECIATED!

Moving forward, Afrikasgems Tour will cease its association with the Travel Center, Silver Spring and seek to change the IATA accreditation. This will also mean a change in our business operation center within the US. Until further noticed, we WILL NOT be able to offer any payment arrangements and as a result will limit our involvement with group bookings.  We will continue to work even harder to maintain and earn your trust as the premier booking engine for Air, and advance bookings for Hotels, Guest Homes, Tours and Transportation services in Sierra Leone.  

Best Regards,
Desmond L Bishop, President & Founder

Afrikasgems Tour & Marketing/ Mt. Lion Excursions (SL)

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