/ Travel & Leisure

Misleading holidays aren’t what they’re packed up to be

An old bed outside a building

I’ve been to a fair few town halls in my time as a reporter, but not so many palaces. So if I booked a holiday promising me a party in a palace, I’d be annoyed if I ended up in a municipal building.

This is exactly what happened to some travellers who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the description of an arts tour to Vienna.

The brochure and email descriptions of the tour, run by Travel for the Arts, promised entry to the ‘dazzling Vienna Summer Palace Ball’, with seating in a private ‘loge’ in the ballroom.

In fact, the event took place in a building known as the Rathaus, a municipal building home to Vienna city council and mayor. The loge was not private to people on the tour, but had to be shared with another group.

So last week the ASA upheld two complaints about the tour on the basis that the event was not in a palace, and the seats were not private.

I’d like to think that the days of travellers being misled by inaccurate descriptions in brochures are over. I would hope that companies have learned from the bad publicity caused by being overly optimistic about how long it takes to walk to the beach, or neglecting to mention that a hotel is next to a building site.

But it seems that consumers are still being misled by some familiar sounding inaccuracies in holiday descriptions.

A long way from reality

For instance, in December the ASA upheld a complaint against EasyJet Holidays’ description of the Marinem Diana hotel in Turkey, on five grounds:

  • The EasyJet Holidays website had stated the hotel was 14km from the heart of the Kemer resort, when in fact it was 21km away.
  • The website claimed that the hotel had tennis, billiards, jacuzzi and fitness facilities, when it didn’t have any of them.
  • The room furnishings did not match the description and photos on the site.
  • The site inaccurately claimed rooms had a minibar, because the minibars stocked only bottled water, not alcoholic drinks.
  • And finally, the website showed a photo of a restaurant that had not been available during the holiday.

Altogether, that’s one very misleading description for a holidaymaker who was surely entitled to feel they didn’t get what they paid for.

Personally I’ve been lucky with my holidays. Although I did have one budget trip to a Greek island that promised a room near the coast, but didn’t mention that it was at the end of the runway of a coastal airport.

Have you ever felt duped by the description of your holiday failing to live up to reality? Or do you think travel companies are generally accurate and honest these days?

Comments
Guest
Alison Wilson says:
18 March 2013

I once went on a holiday with Thomson this was about 30 years ago and as Thomson had overbooked, they put us into a hotel that had been closed for about 30 years and had opened it up and cleaned it 2 weeks before we arrived, it was horrendous I only stayed there for one night but the gentle man who moved into my room died with legionnaires disease and a lot of people had the bug and had to go to hospital, There was no door on the room only a curtain it was absolutely infested with c**k roaches, bare wires on the wall and a wire with a lightbulb was our only light,
Then 15 years ago under duress from my family I booked another holiday with Thomson for an all inclusive and paid nearly a thousand pound per person and yet again i was totally disgusted with the quality of the food the cleanliness, the staff, and to make matters worse most of the people who had booked this holiday had paid between £400 and £500 so I have never used Thomson again and I never will.

Guest
Stephen Price says:
18 March 2013

I booked my £4196 walking holiday to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. As instructed by Ramblers staff and the literature, I packed my size 12 boots [nearly filling the case] brought as instructed & my £50 for transport for the walks. I quote from the brochure ‘ Expect three hours’ walking on several days, with a maximum of approximately five hours’ walking on any one day’
But the UK ‘Leader’ never organised or even mentioned a walk, he just sat back read his book and enjoyed his free holiday that I had paid for! At the end of a mornings visit he just went to his room and we were left to organize the afternoon. In fact that is all he did, he certainly never contributed anything!

Guest
H. Horsnell says:
18 March 2013

In 2010 my husband and I went to China on a Wendy Wu Tour. The information booklet did not state that almost all public toilets were ‘squat’ type, even in the resteraunts, which for older westerners is not easy. All the hotel beds mattresses were extremely hard. There was no western food to choose from. There was supposed to be a choice, but it was only from the traditional chinese food. Every day started very early, sometimes 5.30am with our breakfast in a bag to eat on route, or to meet up for our coach at 7am. It was more like a boot camp, with early starts, hours in a coach, 5 internal flights and lots of walking, some on very rough ground and steep terrain and millions of steps. Health&Safety didnt seem to feature, the coaches had no seatbelts, the tour guides(who did speak good English) carried on with commentaries while everyone on the coach fell asleep through shear exhaustion. I will never go to China again.

Guest

We once booked through Travel Republic flights and accommodation to an all inclusive hotel in Olu Deniz, Turkey. We thought it was a package holiday but noticed we received two invoices. The hotel was atrocious – both room and food were well below advertised standard and we moved out to a different hotel. Travel Republic did not accept responsibility but left us to deal directly with Turkey which proved equally disastrous. We lost out big time but wrote it off to experience. Never again will we book with Travel Republic.

Guest

I booked a 10-day package with Inghams Lakes & Mountains last May/June. Two couples flying from two different UK airports to Verona, and then staying in an apartment “just behind” the main hotel. We chose this apartment as the brochure said it had two bathrooms and other essential facilities.

When we got to the UK airports, we discovered 3 of the 4 passengers were not listed on the airline’s manifest. Inghams had clearly not transferred all the relevant passenger data correctly to the airline. We needed to involve senior management from the airline and Inghams to get our boarding passes onto the aircraft. When we got to Verona and complained to the local reps they were very supportive and promised to contact HO in the UK to ensure all was OK for the return trip. But it wasn’t – and this none of the 4 passengers were on the manifest, and it needed more high level management intervention.

When we finally got to the apartment we discovered it wasn’t “just behind the hotel” but over 300m away across the other side of the village. It was early in the tourist season (late May), and we were clearly the first guests of the season. There was only one bathroom (not two) which became a bottleneck when we went on day trips that required an early start. There was no hot water as the boiler was broken, the fridge wasn’t working (the fuse had blown in the fusebox), there was no microwave, and several easy chairs were missing. The hotel responded well when these faults were pointed out and solved things within 48 hours, and the local Inghams reps were very good.

The brochure also forgot to mention that the apartment was situated right next door to the village church, whose bells pealed every hour of the day and night, with an extra long peals at 7am and 7pm.

On returning home we complained to Inghams HO, but got the brush off from their so-called Customer Relations manager. Eventually she offered £100 compensation in the form of a voucher against a future Inghams holiday. We definitely won’t be taking up this offer, and nor will any of our friends and family.

Guest
teddywinkles says:
18 March 2013

Booked a de luxe balcony cabin on Island Escape (I think it did a runner from the normal cruise ships)
Food poor. Leather (well faux) had 9 rilps in it. Ship was a bit of a rust bucket (ex ferry boat) cheap but maybe not that cheerful for value.
On saying that some people enjoyed, as there wasn’t all the dressing up that is expected on most decent cruises. The ports of call were good though

Guest
Gareth Brown says:
19 March 2013

What A Joke!! Read email trail… Awful company to deal with – check out all the complaints about this company – i will never use them again!

This was still not the holiday we paid for or what was advertised in the brochure.
We will no look to take this further along with other couples who were at the resort at the same time.

Regards
Gareth & Scott

—–Original Message—–
From: [email address removed]
Sent: 01 February 2013 17:37
To: Gareth Brown
Subject: 4861196 – 21/11/2012 – MR.S.RANDLES

Without Prejudice

Please Quote: W12/13/4861196/JM

Dear Mr Randles,

Thank you for your letter following the response you received from me. I’ve reviewed your earlier correspondence and re-examined the circumstances surrounding your complaint. My reply to you was written with a genuine desire to answer your questions carefully and honestly.

Thomson always gives careful consideration to every letter received and we are always prepared to consider again if our customers are not satisfied with the response given. I genuinely feel my investigation and response to all the points you’ve raised in your original correspondence to you is fair and acknowledges the matters you were unhappy with.

With regards to the points you raised about health and safety concerns in your room, as there is no further evidence to back these points up I used our Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires to see how the hotel was performing in terms of room standards and as it was meeting its targets I couldn’t offer any compensation. Furthermore, it is difficult for anyone in resort at the time to give an accurate account of the complaint without paperwork to refer to.

Furthermore, I understand that you were disappointed with the role played by your Holiday Advisor and particularly that there were no forms filled out when you made your complaints. The service provided by our Holiday Advisors at the Jaz Mirabel Beach was meeting its target for the time that you travelled therefore I will not be offering compensation for this aspect of your holiday. Although paperwork wasn’t filled out noting your complaints, that is not to say that I would definitely offer compensation had a Customer Service Form been filled out to log your complaints based on the fact that the hotel was scoring well based on out Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires.

Our Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires are based on how our customers rate each aspect of the hotel. They score each aspect with a percentage and the hotel will have a target to hit based on it’s T rating, which is, in Jaz Mirabel Beach’s case, 5T.

With regards to your complaint about the amount of a la carte vouchers I double checked with your travel agents to see that you were made aware that only one a la carte voucher was being offered. They have stated that your booking was a Powersearch booking therefore all information, including the errata which stated you would be given only one a la carte voucher rather than three as stated in the brochure would’ve been contained in this paperwork. I understand that you may have not been told this directly by your travel agent but as the information is available it is not something I will be offering compensation for.

I understand and agree with your comments about a holiday being a relaxing time in a hassle free environment however the fact remains that we are unable to control the behaviour of locals outside the hotel. Many people do complain about this aspect of a holiday to Egypt but unfortunately it is out with our control.

Again, I completely understand why you were so upset following the incident with the airport security which was compounded by the strike which delayed your departure. Whilst it would be good to have a Thomson representative at the airport at all times to look after customers it is not always the case that one will be there. The representatives who work in our resorts have designated airport days as understandably the majority of their work is carried out at the hotels. Because of this there are not always representatives present at the airport. Although from reading your correspondence I can see why it is important to have a representative at the airport so I will make sure your comments regarding this are passed onto our Holiday Experience Team so it can consider them when implementing improvements in our holidays.

As a company we decided to include the Jaz Mirabel Beach in our Platinum range. However, to become part of our Platinum range more than 90% of our customers must score the accommodation at over 90% therefore both the 5T rating applied to the hotel and the fact that it is in our Platinum range is due to customer feedback.

With regards to your comments about the condition of the toilets, I am not disputing these it is just I have no evidence other than our Customer Satisfaction Questionnaires to place this complaint against. As stated in my previous response the hotel was scoring well in this area at the time you travelled so I will not be offering compensation for this.

Thomson cares a great deal for their customers and work towards meeting all their needs and I’m sorry if you feel that this is not the case. I know that this is not the outcome you were hoping for and if you’re still not happy with my outcome then it’s at your discretion if you wish to pursue this matter further.

I know lots of companies say they’re grateful for your feedback, but we genuinely mean it. Where we can, we’ll act on your comments to make sure our holidays are the best they can possibly be.

Yours sincerely,
[name removed]
Customer Support Advisor
After Travel Customer Support

From: [email address removed]
Sent: 01 February 2013 12:34
To: Gareth Brown
Subject: RE: Reference no: 0456/73020

Hi,

I’m just going over your complaint as we speak. You will have a response by the end of today.

Kind Regards

[name removed]
Customer Support Advisor
After Travel Customer Support
[email address removed]
________________________________________
From: Gareth Brown [email address removed]
Sent: 01 February 2013 12:30
To: [name removed]
Subject: RE: Reference no: 0456/73020

? still awaiting response.

Can you please advise.

Thanks
Gareth & Scott

From: Gareth Brown
Sent: 25 January 2013 12:02
To: [name removed]
Cc: [email address removed]
Subject: RE: Reference no: 0456/73020

Hi

Please find attached some of the photo’s as discussed.
I would also be grateful if you would address all the points in red below

Please note I have more pictures on my camera at home that I will get, but I am away working atm and the other couples who are also complaining are sending me some more pics as well.

Regards
Gareth & Scott
From: [email address removed]
Sent: 11 January 2013 13:21
To: Gareth Brown
Subject: RE: Reference no: 0456/73020

Dear Scott & Gareth,

You mention in your correspondence that you have pictures relating to your complaint. Would it be possible for you to email them to this address.

Thanks

[name removed]
Customer Support Advisor
After Travel Customer Support
[email address removed]
________________________________________
From: Gareth Brown [email address removed]
Sent: 09 January 2013 18:25
To: [name removed]
Subject: RE: Reference no: 0456/73020
Importance: High

Please note our responses in red

We are extremely disappointed with your reply, and as we have other witnesses and know other people who have also complained. We will now speak to them and seek advice, and will not rule out speaking with ATOL ,rip off Brittan, The Ferret, and the local/National press about our experiences. As I know 3 other couple who also complained at the same time as us this should be interesting.

Please note we also have pictures to back up our cases.

If you would like to respond to our comments below I would be grateful.

Thanks
Scott & Gareth

—–Original Message—–
From: [email address removed]
Sent: 09 January 2013 17:31
To: Gareth Brown
Subject: 4861196 – 21/11/2012 – MR.S.RANDLES

Without Prejudice

Please Quote: W12/13/4861196/JM

Dear Mr Randles,

Thank you for contacting us with feedback from your holiday to Egypt.

Taking time away is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable time. I’m sorry to read that on this occasion this was not the case because you were unhappy with various aspects of your holiday. I understand how frustrating and disappointing it can be when something doesn’t go to plan.

I’m sorry to hear about your disappointment regarding your flight experiences. As you are aware, Thomson no longer offers in-flight entertainment on short and mid-haul flights. (At no point were we made aware of this) This decision was based on the results of research over the past few years and discussions with many focus groups. The feedback we gathered showed that more and more customers are taking their own entertainment devices on board these days and therefore the need for in-flight entertainment is on the decrease. The majority of our customers said they wouldn’t miss the in-flight entertainment if it was switched off. With this in mind, we didn’t proactively advise our customers of these changes. The same reasoning has been applies also to why we no longer offer in flight meals on flights to Egypt. (At no point were we made aware of this)

Furthermore, I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed with the beach at Jaz Mirabel Beach. As you mention, we do advertise it in our brochure as a sandy beach so I’m sorry if this aspect of the holiday didn’t meet your expectations.(??? there we a lot of things that did not match up to your brochure!)

Moreover, I can also see that you had some problems with your room, particularly with the broken fridge, as well as a lack of running water on some occasions . (Major health and safety concerns incl