/ Travel & Leisure

Booked a hotel for Wimbledon? Welcome to Basingstoke

If you’ve booked a hotel package for a sports event, it’s reasonable to expect your hotel to be in the same city as the event. Why are travel agents making such simple mistakes?

Imagine how a group of tennis fans felt this summer when they found out the hotel for their Wimbledon package had been changed to one in… Basingstoke.

Our latest Which? Travel magazine explains how a reader had booked with Newmarket Holidays way back in August last year for a group stay in a London hotel during this year’s Wimbledon fortnight.

But it was only eight days before they were due to travel to the tournament that he was told they’d actually be staying at a hotel in Basingstoke, 49 miles away. A case of poor game, upset and mismatch, you could say.

Newmarket Holidays told us that a system error meant this reader’s group was given a London hotel that didn’t have enough rooms available, and there were no other alternatives in the capital. But why did it take so long to let them know? Shouldn’t companies secure rooms closer to the actual date of booking rather than hedging their bets until the last minute?

Overbooking hotel rooms

Companies may leave finalising allocations until they see all the bookings that have come in, so they can then plan transfer coaches to get people to hotels in the most efficient way. On this occasion, something seems to have gone awry with the allocation process. The company told us that it has improved its systems so that this problem won’t happen again.

Overbooking hotel rooms seems to be as common as overbooking airline seats, as companies estimate they will have a certain number of last-minute cancellations or no-shows.

On a recent episode of the BBC’s Watchdog, Travelodge came in for criticism on its policy of overbooking – people turned up at their booked hotel only to be sent away to an unsuitable sister property miles away because all the rooms were full.

Bad locations

And then there are the companies that gild the lily with their location names or descriptions to encourage you to believe you’ll be staying in the heart of the action, when in fact you’re out in the suburbs.

Thomas Cook’s London Olympic packages include hotels way out west in Heathrow. At least this is still London, and they are upfront about this, but it’s hardly on the doorstep of East London’s Olympic Park, which is more than an hour away on public transport.

Have you fallen foul of a hotel overbooking policy and been sent packing to another town at the last minute? Or have you chosen a B&B or hotel because it was advertised as being in the town, city or resort centre, only to find that it was actually miles away?