Nick Harris – head of Simpson Millar’s travel department – has been advising Channel 4 TV’s SuperScrimpers consumer journalist Harry Wallop on a case involving holidaymakers whose holiday turned out to be far removed from the brochure description.
In the second episode of the third series of SuperScrimpers screened last night and now available online at 4oD, three holidaymakers describe how their two-week, end-of-season break to Turkey in October turned out to be a holiday nightmare.
The two-star Beldeniz hotel at Olu Deniz had been described in the Thomson brochure as "friendly", with family entertainment and a bar and restaurant.
But Michael Rowe, 65, and his married friends found the hotel to be a building site, as contractors demolishing the bar camped out in the foyer – and even ran the kitchen and acted as waiters, after the chef was sent home because the season was drawing to a close.
Mr Rowe and Mrs and Mrs Trinder tackled the hotel manager but allegedly were met with an "aggressive" response and told if they were not happy they could leave, as nothing would change.
Nick Harris advises that holidaymakers whose holidays do not live up to the brochure description are protected under the 1992 Package Travel Regulations – and booking a package holiday with a tour operator which is a member of ABTA and is also ATOL approved can help protect holidaymakers from mis-representation of holidays in brochures.
In this case, the holidaymakers wrote six times to Thomson to complain – the tour operator responded to SuperScrimpers by saying that any lack of facilities was covered in their terms and conditions relating to end-of-season holidays, which might not offer the same amenities as in the high season.
However, in its letter to SuperScrimpers, the tour operator did express its regret that the holidaymakers had not enjoyed their holiday – Mrs Trinder said this was the first time that anything approaching an apology had been offered by Thomson, despite the fact the holidaymakers had spent their two-week break living on a building site, with no restaurant, bar, hotel staff and very few other guests at the hotel.
SuperScrimpers’ consumer champion Harry Wallop contacted Simpson Millar’s Nick Harris for his opinion – Thomson had only offered to reimburse half the cost of the holiday to Mr Rowe and his friends, who had each paid £600 for their two-week bed and breakfast break to Turkey.
Nick advises holidaymakers that any substantial difference in standards of the accommodation advertised at the time of booking a package holiday constitutes a breach of contract – and in this case Thomson failed to deliver the holiday it advertised.
Despite the current recession, Harry Wallop revealed during the programme that the average family spends £3,890 on a package holiday – and since the credit crunch of 2008, bookings of all inclusive package holidays have increased by 50%.
In 2011, the UK spent a total of £12.4 billion on holidays and breaks.
However, in 2011, ABTA received around 12,500 complaints from unhappy holidaymakers whose holidays had not lived up to the brochure description – and every year Simpson Millar handles thousands of claims for cases of holiday illness, which holidaymakers have suffered as a result of lapses in hygiene and food preparation standards at their package holiday hotels. Many of these holidaymakers have contracted serious gastrointestinal infections like salmonella or campylobacter from the all inclusive buffet.
More tour operators – including cruise ships – are also working on profit margins which involve a quick turnaround, meaning rooms might not be as clean as they should be; or equipment such as air conditioners or lifts might not be maintained as well as they should be, leaving holidaymakers exposed to the risk of serious infections like Legionnaires’ disease or injury in lift accidents.
SuperScrimpers is currently awaiting the outcome of a review by Thomson’s own lawyers into the complaints made by Mr Rowe and Mr and Mrs Trinder. As a result, the tour operator – which is part of the TUI group – said it was unable to comment further.
The holidaymakers have now lodged a claim in the small claims court to obtain a full reimbursement of the cost of their nightmare Thomson package holiday.
The episode of SuperScrimpers featuring the story and advice from Simpson Millar’s Nick Harris is available online at 4oD.