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What to do if your Thomson "dream hotel" turns into a nightmare

Thomson’s online search engine offers holidaymakers the chance to "Find your dream hotel".

For three holidaymakers visiting Olu Deniz in Turkey for a package holiday at the end of the season, the Beldeniz hotel appeared to be the ideal choice.

Thomson’s website rates the Beldeniz as a three-star hotel and Michael Rowe and his married friends the Trinders – all in their sixties – booked a two-week bed and breakfast holiday, after reading about the friendly Beldeniz and its restaurant, bar and entertainment, including a belly dancer.

When they arrived, however, what they were greeted with was a gang of builders who were demolishing the bar and no chef, restaurant or evening entertainment (let alone a belly dancer).

The friends wrote to Thomson six times between them and were offered £300 each, despite having paid £600 each for their holiday nightmare.

Harry Wallop – consumer adviser on Channel 4’s SuperScrimpers – wrote to Thomson on behalf of the three holidaymakers and read the tour operator’s response on the episode of SuperScrimpers shown on 1 August.

Thomson’s representatives wrote:

"Thomson is very sorry to hear that Mr and Mrs Trinder and Mr Rowe were unhappy with their holiday to Turkey. Unfortunately at the end of the season, hotels are not always able to offer all of the facilities available during peak season and this is outlined in our terms and conditions.

"Our legal team is currently investigating the Trinder/Rowe party’s complaint and therefore we are unable to comment further on this case.

"Thomson would like to reassure customers that we regularly review the hotels we operate to and ensure that they meet the high standards our customers expect from a Thomson holiday.

"The hotel Beldeniz continues to be a very popular hotel for Thomson, with customers scoring the accommodation overall at 83% during the month of October when the Trinder/Rowe party was staying there."

Mrs Trinder claims, however, "there was no one else at the hotel, apart from the first three days and a few days right at the end when we left".

The three holidaymakers were not asked to give their opinion on the hotel, either.

Leading travel lawyer Nick Harris from Simpson Millar was, however, asked to give his opinion on the case by SuperScrimpers – and he confirmed that Thomson had a contract with the holidaymakers based on what they had read about the hotel in the holiday brochure description, and Thomson had failed to deliver on this contract.

Reviews of the Villa Beldeniz on Tripadvisor are very much a love/hate affair, with regulars returning three or four times or more – but other holidaymakers mention a poor attitude among staff and rundown rooms, as well as one room regularly referred to as "the dungeon".

A possible refurbishment at the Beldeniz is referred to briefly by one holidaymaker in a Tripadvisor review dated 21 January 2011 – the same party had also stayed in September 2010 and recommended the hotel.

Holiday Nightmare

So what should holidaymakers do if the brochure and the online reviews look good – but the holiday turns out to be a nightmare and the hotel management and tour operator are unresponsive?

  • Nick Harris advises holidaymakers that, as package holidays are regulated under the 1992 Package Travel Regulations, it is possible to make a claim under the regulations.
  • Booking with a tour operator which is a member of ABTA and ATOL-approved can offer even more protection if your holiday is not as described in the brochure.
  • If your accommodation or anything about your holiday is changed substantially, your tour operator should give you notice before you set off.
  • Your tour operator also has a legal duty to provide you with accommodation of a similar standard to that booked – if you have valid reasons for not accepting the alternative, the tour operator will have to fly you home at its own expense, reimburse the cost of the holiday and add compensation, says Nick Harris.
  • If your holiday turns out to be a nightmare you have to endure, take images, videos and statements and the contact details of other unhappy holidaymakers.
  • Also tell the rep straight away while you are in resort if you are unhappy with your holiday or have suffered illness like food poisoning as a result of eating at the hotel, so the tour operator has a chance to put things right.

The holidaymakers whose case was featured on SuperScrimpers were told by the hotel manager that nothing would change at the hotel – and if they did not like it, they could leave.

The Thomson rep was "very nice" but unable to do anything, say the three holidaymakers – who have lodged a claim in the small claims court for full reimbursement of their holiday expenses.

Harry Wallop of SuperScrimpers is currently awaiting the outcome of a review of the case by Thomson’s lawyers.

The SuperScrimpers episode featuring advice from Nick Harris is now available to view online at 4oD.

Dated: 08/08/2012

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