Category Archives: Email

Careful with Victoria Tourism & www.victoriatourism.com.au listing renewals

A number of accommodation managers in Victoria have been receiving unsolicited emails requesting that they renew their listing on the Victoria Tourism website at www.victoriatourism.com.au.

Before going any further, it is very important to note that Victoria Tourism is in no way related to the official government tourism organisation of Tourism Victoria.  In fact, the company behind the confusingly named Victoria Tourism website is Accommodation Find Pty Ltd – one of several companies based in Queensland who have a history of false billing scams.

Instead of past practices of sending out what resembled bills in the mail for advertising on their websites, their tactic for the Victoria Tourism website is to send out emails requesting authorisation for continuing an apparently existing listing.

A copy of a typical email sent out by Victoria Tourism (Accommodation Find Pty Ltd) is shown below, with the personal details of the recipient removed.

Victoria Tourism bill

The email is rather strange, being a screenshot of a letter which isn’t very clear and is not easy to read.

Notable features of the email are:

  1. It is issued by Victoria Tourism (not Tourism Victoria), with a green and blue “V” logo
  2. The company behind the website is listed as Accommodation Find Pty Ltd
  3. The ABN on the email is 18 086 159 195
  4. The contact phone number is 1800 199 863 which also relates to the companies Special Days Pty Ltd and Internet Find Pty Ltd – all based in Queensland
  5. The cost to advertise is specified as $95 for a 12 month listing

Many accommodation providers who receive this email never signed up for a listing on the Victoria Tourism website and may be unaware that they even had a listing on there.

The email implies an existing business relationship by stating:

“It has come to my attention that your listing on our Victoria Tourism website is due to expire…”

Also:

“Please forward through your authorisation for its continuation for the next 12 months.”

This implies that the recipient of the email has already authorised and paid for at least one 12 month advertising period and is being asked to pay $95 to renew it for another 12 months.

However, these implications are false. The Victoria Tourism website has only been running in its current form since the end of 2015.  How can all these accommodation providers who are receiving this renewal email be at the end of their 12 month advertising period in March 2016?

The organisation behind the Victoria Tourism website also previously created the Vic Tourism website at www.victourism.com.au. Read about the history of the Vic Tourism website for further information.

While the Victoria Tourism email does not resemble a bill like other letters that Accommodation Find Pty Ltd has sent out in the past, all accommodation owners that receive it should not submit their authorisation to renew without careful consideration.  Keep in mind that:

  1. The email is an unsolicited offer to continue a service that was most likely not ordered in the first place
  2. The email implies a past business relationship and existing advertising authorisation
  3. The website title of Victoria Tourism is an exact reversal of the two words which constitute Victoria’s official government tourism body of Tourism Victoria.  Such word tactics are a common method used to try and confuse people into thinking they are dealing with an official organisation or popular brand.

If you have inadvertently provided authorisation to Victoria Tourism to bill you for an accommodation listing that you thought was with Tourism Victoria, you can lodge a report with the ACCC by visiting their report a scam page.  Specify “false billing” as the scam type in your report.

Update for 2017

A number of accommodation providers have received unsolicited emails from the Victoria Tourism website requesting that they check their listing and review the details.  An example of such an email is below.

Victoria Tourism

It is unclear if there is a cost involved in updating such a listing when invited to do so via email, however when examining the advertising page, an annual cost of $99 is mentioned.

Curiously, the contact details for the Victoria Tourism website have changed since the original email that accommodation providers received last year.  In particular:

  • The phone number has changed from 1800 199 863 to 1300 656 789
  • The postal address is now listed as “Inter Find”, located at P.O. Box 309, Oxenford, QLD, 4210
  • The ABN on the original email (18 086 159 195) is not the ABN the website’s domain was registered with (37 086 159 211)

For those who may at first glance assume that Victoria Tourism is in fact Victoria’s official tourism body, then the Queensland postal address they provide should make it clear that is not the case.

Another update for 2017

The organisation behind the Victoria Tourism website has recently began sending out more emails, requesting businesses check their details on a new website titled HotelFind – www.hotelfind.com.au.

An example of one of the Hotel Find emails is below:

HotelFind

Again, it is unclear if there is a cost involved in claiming or updating a listing.

On its website, HotelFind claims that it is:

“a trusted brand that helps promote accommodation and tourism Australia wide”

This is quite a bold statement given that the website has only been online for a few months, and that the website owner, Amanda Stichbury, was fined and convicted by a court of law in 2014 and also in 2017 for breaching Australian Consumer Law over a series of false billing charges.

Anyone who receives an invitation from HotelFind to check their business details should confirm if there are any costs associated in updating or maintaining their listing.  If costs are involved, the benefit of having a listing on the HotelFind website should be carefully considered.

Update for 2018

We have received reports that some accommodation providers and tourism businesses in Victoria have received unsolicited emails from Victoria Tourism in regards to listings they apparently have on the www.victoriatourism.com.au website.

You are receiving this email because you have listed with us” is the justification for receiving this in the email, although the businesses that have contacted us say they never signed up for a listing.

The Victoria Tourism website claims to have tens of thousands of businesses that have listed with them, yet the vast majority of listings have a “claim business” button displayed, implying that these businesses have not actually applied for a listing.

A example copy of an unsolicited email is included below.  Note there are no contact details displayed in the email, other than the email address of data@victoriatourism.com.au and links to click on in order to confirm the business details.  The email states that Victoria Tourism is “supported by ClickFind.com”.

Victoria Tourism
An example of an unsolicited email from the Queensland based organisation of “Victoria Tourism”.

Anyone who receives this email from Victoria Tourism to check their business details and receive the enquiries that are claimed to have occurred should confirm if there are any costs associated in updating or maintaining their listing.  If costs are involved, the benefit of having a listing on the Victoria Tourism website should be carefully considered.

Update for 2019

Visit Victoria (Victoria’ official government tourism organisation) and the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse (ATDW) have been recently inundated with reports of its members being hit with requests by Queensland based “Victoria Tourism” to claim their business listing on their website (www.victoriatourism.com.au), then hitting them with a bill for it.

Visit Victoria has described the organisation behind this as a “scam company”, given its long history of false billing scams which resulted in the company being convicted and fined in a court of law during both 2014 and 2017.

Visit Victoria and ATDW have stated that they are “providing evidence of these invoices to the Office of Fair Trading in Queensland, who are building a case to take enforcement action against the scam organisation“.

Are organisations shunning email communications with the public?

Email
Not getting a timely response to your emails when communicating with organisations? You're not alone.

Email is great for quick and easy communication, however some larger organisations are increasingly treating email from the general public as no more than a nuisance and give low priority to dealing with it.

Let’s consider a recent situation we experienced.  While developing our Dogs On Holidays website, we wanted to create a page containing links to specific pages on the websites of all Victorian coastal municipalities where they define which beaches are dog friendly and any associated conditions visitors had to abide by when bring their pet.

We were able to find the required information about bringing dogs on beaches on the websites of 15 of the 18 coastal municipalities in Victoria, so it was just a simple job to link to their relevant pages. We couldn’t find the information we needed on the websites of the remaining 3 municipalities, which either meant we weren’t looking in the right place, or they simply didn’t publish it.

Our next step was to email these 3 coastal municipalities, asking them where we could access information about bringing dogs on their local beaches.  By doing so, we discovered how responsive these organisations were to fairly straightforward and genuine requests for information.  Our expectation was an email response within 3 working days, however none of those municipalities managed to achieve that, although one came very close.

  1. South Gippsland Shire. With their headquarters Leongatha and covering the coastal communities of Venus Bay, Walkerville, Watarah Bay, Sandy Point and Port Welshpool, they were the quickest to respond.  They managed to reply in just over 4 business days from receiving our request.
  2. Corangamite Shire. Administered from Camperdown, this municipality covers the Great Ocean Road holiday towns of Port Campbell and Princetown. We received a response after 6 business days from the local laws officer.
  3. Colac-Otway Shire. Run from their headquarters in Colac, this shire covers the coastal areas on either side of Cape Otway including Johanna, Glenaire, Marengo, Apollo Bay, Skenes Creek, Kennett River and Wye River. The Colac-Otway Shire performed the worst out of our bunch of three. After 15 business days (3 weeks), we are yet to receive a response.  Too bad if we were planning a visit or holiday in the area. Maybe they want people with dogs to go further along the coast and into another municipality instead?

Of course there’s no excuse for a non-reply after 3 weeks.  Even if the Colac-Otway Shire kept no records of which of its beaches dogs are allowed on, or if the question could have been better answered by another organisation, a quick reply to that effect would have been much more appropriate than simply ignoring the request for information.

Unfortunately, this experience highlights what is sadly becoming all too common these days – organisations taking an eternity to respond to emails or simply not replying at all. Email communications is supposed to save time and money, but instead it seems to be an increasing source of frustration for individuals trying to communicate with organisations, only to endure long delays in receiving a reply or having their communications ignored.

So if you’re working as part of an organisation, treat emails as important as phone calls or letters in the mail. We do here at Travel Victoria, so why shouldn’t you?

Treat emails with the same importance as phone calls

Telephone
Respect emails as you do to phone calls

Imagine telephoning someone, and after they pick up the phone, they utter not one word back to you. You may regard it as the height of rudeness, but in today’s society where emails have replaced many phone conversations, non-responses to your messages can be common.

Of course we’re not talking about email messages such as notifications, announcements or items of general interest – most of those don’t require a response back. But for those emails where you are expecting a direct and timely reply, you may feel like either the recipient is ignoring you or maybe you’ve said or done something to offend them, so they aren’t replying.

If you do receive an email that is time-critical, and you can’t deal with it today, why not spend just a few seconds to send a brief response back letting them know you’ll get onto within the next couple of days? At least then they’ll know you’ve read it and haven’t ignored or forgotten about it.

Email communication is promoted as saving time and cost, but how many times have you resorted to phoning someone up due to a lack of reply and asked them the tired old question “have you read my email?”. Or maybe you’ve sent them a second or third email reminder, with each successive non-reply from them making you even more frustrated?

Treat email messages with the same respect as phone calls. While of course you can’t be expected to drop everything the instant an email arrives and deal fully with it, people these days do expect timely responses. And if you can’t give them that, let them know, rather than ignoring them and leaving them in the dark.

Here at Travel Victoria, one of our hallmark characteristics over the years has been timely responses to emails. If someone has gone to the effort of writing us a message, we feel the sender deserves a timely response, excluding those sending us spam emails or unsolicited advertising offers of course.

Make your business email friendly and reply to those emails!

Why showcase your internet provider in your business email address?

Email address
Your business name or Telstra in your email address – you decide

Say a business has their own domain and website. How many times do you encounter businesses that publish their email address as being the one they were allotted by their internet service provider?

For example, let’s say “Melbourne’s Best Apartments” has a website at www.MelbournesBestApartments.com.au. On their website, they advertise their email address as being melbapart33@bigpond.com.au.  They receive enquiry emails okay, so what’s the problem?

  1. Portability. Not every business sticks with their same internet service provider for life. In fact, changing the company you use to access the internet should be a simple process when you decide to look for a better deal or extra features. Imagine all the extra work you’ve made for yourself in terms of updating your email address if you’ve been publishing the one supplied by your internet provider. There’s changes to make on your website, reprinting of stationery, contacting everyone that’s ever emailed your business to advise of the change, updating listings on other websites which display your email address, and so on.  It’s a mammoth task, fraught with the real risk of neglecting to make changes somewhere. Yet it’s a task that can be easily avoided.
  2. Professionalism. It looks a lot more professional to display your email address as something like bookings@MelbournesBestApartments.com.au than an email address that your internet provider has given you. After all, why would you want to advertise an organisation like Telstra Bigpond in your email address rather than your own business?
  3. Flexibility. By using email addresses based on your business’s domain name, which you directly control yourself, you can then create email addresses with meaningful names, and as many different ones as you like. This adds to the professionalism of your organisation if the manager can be reached by emailing manager@MelbournesBestApartments.com.au rather than the address allocated by your internet service provider, such melbapart33@bigpond.com.au.

Keep your business looking professional and be independent of your internet provider by publishing email addresses based only on your domain name.

If the only reason you’re using the email address supplied by your internet provider is because you can’t rely on your web hosting company to provide rock solid service for receiving and managing email, then you really need to look elsewhere for your web hosting services.