Maria on the beach in Australia, where she lives
Image caption, Maria decided to leave Australia for a post-pandemic skiing holiday in the Alps

The World Travel Organisation is a branch of the UN. Dozens of Brazilian women have been finding this out the hard way after paying for luxury holidays from a man whose account is full of hotels and exotic locations.

Maria decided to take her family on a ski holiday to Europe in December of last year.

She traveled for the first time since the Pandemic and wanted it to be special. She paid $20,000 to a travel agent, who was a friend of hers, to take her north.

Maria checked out of the third hotel and was told the room had not been paid for.

There were two shocks in a matter of seconds. Even though he claimed to have attended an exclusive boarding school in the Alps, he was unable to speak to the hotel manager in French. There was a problem with the tickets when the family boarded the train because he gave two tickets with the same purchase number.

Maria had to pay the bill even though she had paid in full.

She had thought that Rafael Bessa was incompetent. This is not a mistake and it is on purpose. This is not good.

Image source, Rafael Bessa Signature Travel

Maria paid $30,000 for the holiday, which included an additional $10,000 for one of the hotels. The hotel charged the full price for the room, even though Rafael Bessa had said he would give her a free upgrade.

Maria says that the promised reimbursement came to nothing. He sent her various "proofs" of money transfers, but they didn't arrive in her account.

She says his lawyer offered to reimburse $20,000 if she signed a non-disclosure agreement. She said she wouldn't.

Rafael Bessa was asked about Maria's accusations. He said there was a problem with the price of one of the hotels and that the room at this price wasn't included in the package. Maria said that both the train booking and purchase number were the same.

Image caption, Ana Jalenna's first trip with Rafael Bessa was "fantastic" - but not the second

Another Brazilian woman, Ana Jalenna, booked an Alpine skiing trip and also an Italian summer holiday with her husband, Rafael Bessa, after he organised a fantastic family holiday for her in Brazil.

He was going to put the rest on her credit card. She called him to inquire about the British Airways payment that appeared on her card account.

He said it was the payment for her hotel. She contacted the hotel and was told there was no payment.

Ana wanted to know if he had made the bookings at the ski resort. The hotel told her they weren't valid.

I lost a lot of money and a lot of dreams. She said she lost everything.

She spoke to other unhappy clients of Bessa and noticed a pattern.

She says that the first trip was great. He does this to people because he does a longer trip and a better trip with expensive hotels.

Bessa told the British Broadcasting Corporation that he booked the hotel. He paid Ana back the money she had paid him.

Ana didn't cancel it and wasn't paid for it.

When it all goes wrong, what happens when you try the luxury holiday lifestyle on social media? A travel agent from Brazil has a trail of unhappy clients around the world.

Maria and Ana did not suffer financial hardship from their experience.

The failure of Adriane's dream family holiday to Greece this year was more traumatic for her.

She struck up an online friendship with Rafael Bessa after she found him on Facebook.

She explained that she couldn't afford that kind of holiday herself, but he replied that there were trips for every budget, and she ended up booking a dream holiday to Greece for her family and friends.

The cars that were supposed to take them to Athens airport didn't show up.

Adriane sent a message to Rafael Bessa. She couldn't get through to any of the phone numbers he gave her, even though he reassured her that everything had been booked.

A group of people are stuck. The airport operations manager for Club Med came to their aid. Adriane didn't have a Club Med booking in her name. He learned that Rafael Bessa didn't pay for the rooms before they expired.

David contacted the travel agent and asked him to book a different hotel in Athens for the group. David was told the rooms had not been paid for when he called the new hotel.

Media caption,

Adriane says her marriage is in a bad state.

Adriane's husband paid for the rest of the group to stay in a different hotel.

I spent seven days talking to Rafael on the phone and trying to get him to send some of the money. Adriane says that he began to mock her. She says that he tried to convince some of them that Adriane was to blame for the problem and that she owed him money.

I was in a bad place. The seven days in Greece were the worst situation in my life.

My marriage is still in a state of shock. It's a lot of cash for me. It isn't just about the money anymore.

The experience left her devastated.

The hotel booking was canceled because Adriane had failed to pay her debts, despite having reassured her that everything would be okay.

Money transfers were made before the trip to cover the costs of the hotel. She agreed to pay for three plane tickets in installments and was up to date with her payments.

A number of clients of Rafael Bessa have been spoken to. They paid him $90,000 for services that weren't provided.

Victor Penido Machado is a Brazilian lawyer who is working on behalf of nearly 50 clients. He says they paid $183,000 for services that weren't delivered.

The lawyer says there is a repeating pattern. Clients arrive at their destinations, find a hotel has not been paid for, and can't get Rafael Bessa to pay them back

Mr Bessa denied the allegations made by his former clients and said he was shocked by the news.

He wrote that he was surprised by the number of errors.

The UN's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) says social media is being used by travel agents to convince customers to buy a dream holiday, one that they too can look forward to posting on social media.

"Because they are being displayed on social media, tourists may have the perception that these services are more reliable than if they would find them on any regular website."

Digital travel scam are on the rise all over the world.

The problem has become a global one. Many national consumers and authorities are reporting an increase in online scam, and the number may be even higher as the shame and guilt of tourists that fall for them discourages reporting.

A code for the protection of tourists has been developed by the UNWTO and it explains how governments and private companies can work together.

The code has been signed by seven countries so far and others are in the process of doing so.

Meta said that they don't allow fraudulent activity on their platforms and that they work closely with law enforcement.

Last year, we spent $5 billion on safety and security.

  • Social media
  • Brazil
  • Travel & leisure industry
  • Fraud