The recent episode of Channel 4’s popular TV programme SuperScrimpers – which featured holiday advice from Simpson Millar’s Nick Harris – has raised questions among some holidaymakers about how to ensure they are protected from booking package holidays which may not turn out to be advertised once they reach their resort.
SuperScrimpers’ consumer champion Harry Wallop was investigating the case of three holidaymakers who had booked an end-of-season break to Olu Deniz in Turkey with Thomson.
The trio arrived to find their holiday hotel was little more than a building site, with demolition contractors camped out in the foyer doubling as cooks and waiters!
The manager was allegedly aggressive when the holidaymakers complained – and after six letters to Thomson, the tour operator was only prepared to offer half of the cost of the holiday in compensation, despite the fact the trio had paid £600 each for their two-star B&B fortnight’s break and were unable even to buy a bottle of water at the hotel, let alone enjoy the bar, restaurant or belly dancers and entertainment advertised in the brochure.
Nick Harris always advises holidaymakers booking package holidays to make sure tour operators are members of ABTA and also that the holiday is ATOL-protected.
The Package Travel Regulations 1992 protect holidaymakers on package holidays – but in the case of the three unlucky holidaymakers featured in SuperScrimpers, the Thomson rep in resort was unable to help and the three were stranded at the hotel with almost no other holidaymakers present. The hotel closed for the season the day after they left.
Tour operators should always advise holidaymakers of any significant change to the holiday they have booked before they set out – and this includes accommodation.
If accommodation has been changed, holidaymakers should be offered a holiday hotel or apartment of the same standard as the one they booked.
If the holidaymakers decline to accept the substitution for valid reasons, then the tour operator is obliged to fly them home and reimburse the cost of the holiday with compensation, says Nick.
In the case of the holidaymakers whose end-of-season October break to Turkey actually turned out to be a turkey, Nick advises that as the brochure description constituted an inducement to buy the holiday, this formed a contract which Thomson had failed to deliver.
Thomson has argued that any end-of-season change to facilities was covered by their terms and conditions regarding late season holidays, for which certain amenities might not be available.
Thomson’s lawyers are currently reviewing the holidaymakers’ complaints and the tour operator could not comment further because of this.
Holidaymakers looking for a late season bargain can always ask their tour operator the check with the holiday rep in resort to make sure no building works are taking place and whether any facilities will be closed.
It is a good idea to have this confirmed before you book – and also a few weeks before departure.
You can also email the hotel yourself if you suspect there might be a problem.
Nick Harris advises that if you discover there are going to be substantial changes to the holiday you have booked, then it might be best to try and cancel the holiday and push for a full refund.
Tour operators are notoriously reticent about refunding holidaymakers the full cost of a holiday – and sometimes offer holiday vouchers or other forms of recompense instead of the hard cash disappointed holidaymakers deserve.
The SuperScrimpers episode featuring advice from Nick Harris is now available to view online at 4oD.