Travel firms caught "misleading customers" with photos that don't match reality

Travel firms caught

Brits are being left angry and confused when they discover their holiday accommodation looks nothing like they thought it would from the brochure.

Which? Travel spoke to people who discovered dilapidated destinations when they were expecting luxury - including poolside building sites, hotels in the wrong place and VIP cottages that felt anything but.

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland 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.”

This is some of what people have found out after arriving at their destination and what rights you have if it happens to you.

Expectation vs reality of holidays

Travel firms caught
(Image: Getty)

When Linda Allsop arrived at her hotel in Mallorca, she was pleased to see it looked just like in the photos, spilling onto golden sands, just a few steps from the ocean.

Then a porter carried her luggage to the hotel across the road instead.

Linda told Which?: “I was in sheer disbelief that I wasn’t staying in the hotel pictured!”

Tui refunded Linda and her partner £50 each and the online description was changed to ‘two-minute walk to a beach’.

Robert Thompson was looking forward to relaxing by the water in Rhodes. But when he turned up, he found overgrown trees, cracked tiles and sun loungers covered in rust.

“The whole place was tatty, tired and dingy,” he told Which? “I couldn’t believe it when the door handle to the balcony fell off in my hand. It was almost farcical!”

After a lengthy complaints process via Abta (the Association of British Travel Agents) Roberts was given a £500 voucher in compensation.

A Tui spokesperson said it "takes all customer feedback seriously" and it’s "reviewing the content on its website for this hotel to look at any possible improvements".

Travel firms caught
Perhaps it's a little TOO close to the airport (Image: Getty)

Francesca Brown ran into trouble closer to home - after booking a Hoseasons "VIP" cottage with a hot tub on the Isle of Wight.

The brochure showed it in a pretty garden, but she found a mound of gravel surrounded by overgrown weeds, tree roots and discarded cigarette ends.

“It looked more like a prison yard than a premium cottage,” Francesca told Which?

She secured an £86 payout, equal to 15% of the cost of the holiday.

Hoseasons said: "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

Travel firms caught
Holidays pile immense pressure on parents (Image: Getty)

Which? recommends always checking pictures submitted on review sites like TripAdvisor and by guests before making a decision on where to stay.

Other warning signs include spotting odd features on the brochure images - like shadows that don't match up, colours that are too bright and signs the picture has been stretched around the edge.

If you still get caught out - for example by a real image, just from 10 years ago or one of a different hotel - here are the consumer champion's tips to make a claim:

  • 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.