/ Travel & Leisure

Did the ad for your holiday fail to match the reality?

Picture of dream holiday against stormy sky

It’s easier than ever to find out about hotels and holiday resorts. But while the descriptions in brochures and online often sound great, plenty of us have horror stories about places that weren’t quite as described.

You might think that dodgy hotel and resort descriptions were something we left behind in the pre-internet age of the 1970s film ‘Carry on abroad’, where a group of English tourists spent a disastrous holiday in the infamous Spanish resort of Els Bells.

With online booking and review sites, as well as lavish brochures, there are any number of ways we can learn about a hotel before we book, so this shouldn’t be a problem anymore, right? Wrong.

Your holiday horrors

We’ve had dozens of emails from Which? members telling us that the fancy brochure and online descriptions didn’t match the reality of what they found at their destination.

One member was promised a ‘lagoon-style swimming pool’ at a hotel in Malta. Sounds lovely. Except, it turned out to be a building site – a fact that (funnily enough) no one mentioned to them – not even the rep at their welcome meeting!

Has this happened to you?

Maybe your hotel was a building site when you arrived or the Olympic-sized swimming pool wasn’t nearly so grand.

Perhaps half of the bars and restaurants were closed or for the short walk to the beach walking boots would’ve been more appropriate than flip-flops. And was all-inclusive all restricted?

Was your dining experience more gastroenteritis than gastronomy? Or was your five-star dream hotel closer to a two-star?

Your rights when things go wrong

The good news is that when the holiday you receive isn’t as billed, you have rights. By law you can expect the package holiday you booked and paid for. So the holiday description must be accurate. If not, you have refund and compensation rights under the Package Travel Regulations.

Have you arrived at a hotel and found it wasn’t what you expected? Have you been told your booking would have to change? Have you had terrible customer service? Or do you have another holiday nightmare to share with us?


I once stayed at a hotel in Dublin that described itself as ‘lively’ and close to the city centre. Well, the neighbouring night club ensured it was ‘lively’ but close to the city centre? If you owned a stout pair of walking boots and a good map perhaps.

Peter Naylor says:
29 May 2015

Thomas Cook sell holidays saying reps are available at all times and destinations, this being the reason that a lot of people go on holiday with a travel company rather than booking independantly, but after our recent experience I cannot see what benifit there is booking with Thomas Cook and I will not be doing it again.

Firstly on arrival at Heraklion airport we were directed onto our transfer bus given a small leaflet and after a short welcome the rep then left the bus and we were on our way to the accomodation unaccopanied.

The leaflet contained details of welcome meetings for all Hotels except for ours, if we needed information we had to ring a chargeable number, as we were very weary,upset and very angry at our treatment we rang the 24 hour number which was completly useless as somebody on a phone line in Majorca has no idea where we were let alone give us any help or directions.
The local office on the Island was not much better but a Rep did arrange to see us later that day and agreed that the situation was unacceptable and she would look into the transfer procedure. (PS the Rep was late to see us because she had trouble finding the apartments).

After a short jurney the bus then stopped at a fork in the road, the driver pointed in the direction of a building and left us at the side of the road, two seventy year olds with mobility issues under the light of the moon at aproximatley 2am, after realising that the building pointed out to us was not where we needed to be and at that time of night nobody was about (not even muggers) we wandered about for half an hour and finally after going through the grounds of another Hotel complex we arrived at our apartments. The proprioter was expecting us and said this is not the first time this has happend and he has complained to Thomas cook on numerous occasions.

With any holiday company transfer I expect to be taken direct to the Hotel/Apartments reception with a holiday rep, not left at the side of the road,(I use the term road loosly as it is infact more like a cart track with uneven surface and numerous potholes) in the dark, in a foriegn country with no usefull information.

If a coach cannot get to the booked accomadation then suitable transport should be provided to get you there.

The coach picked us up outside the adjacent hotel for our return flight which is where we were told to go to by the apartments proprioter.