Update by user Oct 10, 2013
10/10/2013, Update per request: Not a word from Jaime Fernandez, CEO/Chairman of Affordable Tours in response to my direct two direct e-mails to him, nor do I expect any at this point. Silence, at minimum, surely indicates a "guilty plea," but what leaves me wondering is whether Mr. Fernandez has the slightest interest in insisting on better customer service from his employees than we experienced.
Original review posted by user Sep 09, 2013
We booked a 19-day Insight Vacations "Treasures of Spain, Portugal and Morocco " tour through www.affordabletours.com because we were lured by the discount they offered. Everything went smoothly until we had completed the booking and made a down payment. At that point, Affordable Tours revealed its true nature, and customer service came to a virtual standstill. Our problem arose from the fact that one of the travelers was a non-US/non-EU national who required tourist visas for all the countries to be visited. It turned out that Affordable Tours will offer no advice or assistance on visa-related questions. We were referred to their preferred "visa processing service," which failed to respond to our inquiry. In preparing for this tour, we needed specific details for the tourist visa applications that should have been immediately available as part of the online booking information, but wasn’t and getting it proved to be like “pulling teeth” and required multiple e-mail exchanges. In one case, we were left dangling without the required hotel details only to find out that Rick Contreras, our so-called "travel consultant," had gone on vacation without informing us, so we had to generate a separate e-mail request to another staffer who then provided it. Subsequently, we asked two very basic, simple, but specific, additional questions regarding our booking, and in each case, ran into the proverbial brick wall with Affordable Tours. Here are these two instances: 1. Once it became clear that we would be unable to obtain a Gibraltar visitor’s visa in a timely fashion for the non-US citizen traveler because his visa application had to be sent to the Gibraltar authorities for review, which might have required up to two months, we asked a direct and simple question: Can he wait at the Spanish border (and where) for the return of the group from Gibraltar? We quickly got the brush-off from Affordable Tours ... "we don’t know, you can’t alter the tour itinerary” (something we never asked for!!!), it’s up to the tour director, don’t bother us!" At our insistence, Rick Contreras finally contacted Insight Vacations and got a very forthcoming, satisfactory answer: "No problem, there are a number of options, the tour director will take good care of you." Problem solved! 2. Later, we asked for the scheduled return time to the hotel from the morning tour in Fes, Morocco, on 12 August, to enable us intelligently to schedule an independent excursion to Volubilis and Meknes, two UNESCO World Heritage sites, for that afternoon. Same stone wall: "We don’t know; it’s up to the tour director, don’t bother us." We then escalated the request to the "travel consultant's" supervisor, Marilyn Minke. Ms. Minke took no additional action. Rather than contacting the our operator, Insight Vacations, for an answer, she provided a brush-off, generic response, stating essentially "... we cannot tell you the exact start and end times of the tour (something we had never asked for; we needed merely the scheduled times); it's up to the tour director." We then contacted Insight Vacations directly ourselves and promptly received a very satisfactory response which allowed us to book the desired excursion. Prior to our departure on the tour, I expressed my anger and disappointment about the customer service we had received form the Affordable Tours staff to the company CEO/Chairman, Jaime Fernandez, via direct e-mail. Mr. Fernandez dit not deem my complaint worthy of a response. Our conclusion from this experience is that AffordableTours.com is a discount seller/clearinghouse for multiple tour operators, whose sole focus is on selling tours. Once the sale is closed, the customer is essentially on his/her own. The so-called "travel consultants" employed by Affordable Tours are untrained and unfamiliar with the tours they sell, show no interest in anticipating customer problems or questions, and treat queries with indifferent nonchalance; when pressed, they find it easier to make excuses for inaction than taking positive action in the spirit of providing service to the customer. We will never book anything through Affordable Tours. DO NOT BE LURED, AS WE WERE, BY THE DISCOUNT; IT IS NOT WORTH THE TIME AND AGGRAVATION EXPENDED IN DEALING WITH THIS COMPANY! The experience with Affordable Tours stands in stark contrast to the very excellent service and high quality provided by Insight Vacations, the tour operator.