BRITS are being misled by travel companies who are using stunning photographs of holiday hotels that look nothing like the adverts, according to Which?.
An investigation by the consumer advocate has revealed a number of providers using glossy promo images of hotels and holiday homes that don't accurately reflect the reality.
While many of those affected received refunds or compentsation, Which? has claimed booking sites need to be "more responsible" when advertising properties.
It has reported a number of complaints it received to the Advertising Standards Agency, which if upheld, could mean travel companies will have to change the way they advertise to consumers.
Rory Boland, Which? Travel editor said: "While there are some telltale signs to look out for before you book, no one is immune to falling for an idyllic set of promo photos.
"Hotels and booking sites should not be misleading holidaymakers with promises they can’t keep.
"If your hotel is a far cry from what you were expecting you do have rights to be moved or to a refund, so don’t be afraid to use them."
One example was Linda Allsop, who booked a holiday with Holiday Hypermarket, part of the TUI group.
When she got to what she thought was a hotel by the sea in Majorca, she was stunned to find she was actually in the hotel next to the one she thought she had booked.
While booking the holiday, the website showed pictures of the Hotel Levante, which was right on the beach.
However, she was actually booked into the sister property, Levante Park, which was a couple of minutes away but right next to Hotel Levante in the same picture.
Linda said: "Surely that’s false advertising. I was in sheer disbelief that I wasn’t staying in the hotel pictured!"
Tui refunded Linda and her partner £50 each after they complained.
Which? found that despite the "beachfront hotel" changing its description to a "two minute walk to the beach" after the incident was reported, the photographs failed to make this clear.
Robert Thompson was another tourist left shocked by the difference between advert and reality.
He booked the Hotel Castella di Rodi in Greece with TUI, only to find broken pool tiles, rusty sun-loungers and overgrown gardens.
Robert said: "I couldn’t believe it when the door handle to the balcony fell off in my hand. It was almost farcical!"
Tui offered him a £500 voucher in compensation, but only after a complaint via ABTA.
A TUI spokesperson told Which?: "We’re sorry to hear that Mr Thomson and Ms Allsop’s holidays fell below expectations.
"We take all customer feedback seriously and can confirm we are already reviewing the content on our website for these hotels to look at any possible improvements.
"We’d like to reassure customers that we continuously review and update all content on our website across the many thousands of hotels and destinations we feature and we understand the importance of showing our customers exactly how their holiday will be."
Francesca Brown was left disappointed after booking a cottage in the Isle of Wight with Hoseasons.
The property was sold with stunning photos of a garden boasting a hot tub, but when she got there, it was actually surrounded by weeds and discarded cigarette butts.
She said: “It looked more like a prison yard than a premium cottage.”
Hoseasons refunded £86 to Francesca – but this was just 15 per cent of what she had paid.
Hoseasons also told Which?: "The images of the site are representative of the customer experience, although in some cases we recognise there are variations in the outdoor space.
"We are reviewing the current pictures to ensure they give a clear overview of the site and will be removing any we believe don’t meet our guidelines."
How to claim if your holiday accommodation is not as promised
- If your holiday is not as it was pictured when you booked, complain to a manager or rep straight away. Not only does this give them an opportunity to address the issue, but it also helps you make a better case if you’re still dissatisfied
- Keep a diary of events and collect photo or video evidence, while pocketing receipts for any extra expenses you incur
- If the issue isn’t resolved, write to your hotel or travel agent when you get home – enclosing copies of your evidence (keep originals)
- If you’re still unhappy, approach any relevant trade body (like Abta) or – if all else fails – the small claims court
One family were left devastated after finding out there was building work outside their hotel during their dream five star holiday in Mexico.
Sarah Doyle claimed the family were unable to sleep due to the late night noise.
Another couple were shocked to find their hotel was still being built when they got there.
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