Anyone who watched the recent episode of SuperScrimpers on Channel 4 could not fail to be moved by the plight of three holidaymakers in their 60s who booked an end-of-season two-week break to Turkey – and found their Thomson holiday included two weeks on a building site, an “aggressive” hotel manager and a Thomson’s rep who was “very nice” but left them stranded at an hotel which made Fawlty Towers seem like a five-star paradise.
To add insult to injury, the demolition contractors on site were camping in the foyer and the chef had been dismissed for the season, leaving the builders with the run of the kitchen and doubling up as cooks and waiters.
Not surprisingly, only a few other guests were staying at the hotel at the beginning and end of the trio’s nightmare break at the Beldeniz hotel at Olu Deniz.
Thomson has claimed that the Beldeniz hotel regularly scores an average of more than 80% on its own holiday feedback polls.
But with UK holidaymakers spending around £12 billion on breaks and holidays annually, tour operators which fail in their legal duty to provide the holidays they sell – and then refuse to reimburse the full cost of the holiday – deserve to be placed in the media spotlight.
SuperScrimpers’ consumer expert Harry Wallop took on Thomson for the three holidaymakers – one of whom was near to tears as she described how aggressive the hotel manager became towards them when they complained.
Thomson responded by claiming that its terms and conditions covered any end-of-season lack of facilities – but would the three holidaymakers have received such a rough deal had they not been slightly older holidaymakers, or if the hotel had been full of other disgruntled holidaymakers with more muscle to press their case?
SuperScrimpers approached Simpson Millar’s head of travel Nick Harris to comment on the case – Nick is one of the leading travel lawyers in the UK.
He advised that Thomson failed to deliver the contract agreed, as the brochure description formed an inducement to buy the holiday and thus a contract.
Thomson’s lawyers are currently looking into the complaints of the three holidaymakers again – the trio have lodged a claim in the small claims court for the full reimbursement of their holiday costs.
To date, Thomson has only offered to reimburse £300 to each holidaymaker – half the £600 they each paid for a two-week Thomson nightmare in Turkey.
The market for older holidaymakers snapping up late season package holidays continues to grow, as the baby boomer generation looks for some fun in the sun when temperatures are cooler and holidays more affordable.
However, forcing three guests in their sixties to spend two weeks on a building site with few facilities or staff and virtually no other guests not only raises questions of health and safety – but also what sort of customer service older holidaymakers can expect from tour operators, who may see them as a soft target when it comes to selling off less than satisfactory holidays at the end of the season.
The Thomson brochure promised a bar, restaurant and a friendly atmosphere with entertainment including a belly dancer, the three holidaymakers told Harry Wallop during an interview on SuperScrimpers.
In reality, they got none of this – and could not even buy a bottle of water at the hotel as the bar was being demolished.
Harry Wallop is currently waiting for Thomson’s lawyers to respond again to the three holidaymakers.
Nick Harris advises that if any holidaymakers arrive at their holiday hotel and discover themselves in similar circumstances, tour operators are legally obliged to offer accommodation of a similar quality to that originally booked – and if holidaymakers decline this for valid reasons (eg mobility issues if the hotel entrance is up a steep hill), the tour operator should fly them home and reimburse the full cost of the holiday with compensation.
Olu Deniz is a popular holiday destination full of accommodation – Tripadvisor lists 84 hotels in the area and a search for accommodation at Olu Deniz on the Thomson website returned 17 options, including seven of the same star rating as the Beldeniz.
The fact that the three holidaymakers staying at the Beldeniz were not moved to a more suitable hotel and were left on a building site for two weeks should act as a warning to anyone else booking a Thomson end-of-season holiday.
The episode of SuperScrimpers Nick Harris contributed to is available to view online at 4oD.