We thought a little holiday might be fun this summer and picked a well known coastal resort in the north of Italy to work on dates in August for a family of four. Various web searches found a cute little family run hotel, not far from the beach, which only opens for a few months a year in the peak season. It looked lovely and homely. The price also looked doable. Some of the hotels just two streets away are off the scale price wise appealing to people who have more money than sense. So we booked flight and hotel as a package with Travel Republic for a little over £1400 for four nights.
My wife is always into the detail of things so she immediately contacted the hotel to ask the best way to travel from the airport. Imagine her shock and dismay when, after paying over £1400 to Travel Republic only a minute before, an email came straight back saying, not in the greatest English but clear enough in its meaning, that the hotel was fully booked and there was no availability of any kind at all throughout the season.
Travel Republic had in turn booked the holiday with someone else – Travelscape. Travelscape are in turn a part of Expedia, and then so we tried to contact Expedia to see where we stood, as Travel Republic only offered to reply to us within 48 hours. As Travel Republic refused to give us necessary details, Expedia could not help, although they had been willing to do so, had we been given the Itinerary Number.
Travel Republic then tried telling us that had we booked a ten day holiday, we would not have been refused. The fault was ours for only booking four nights. This was nonsense, and obviously an attempt to save their faces, creating yet another fake holiday, this time, for different reasons. We called Travel Republic’s bluff and offered to take the ten days (We would have as well), but the offer turned out to be fake, of course. The email from the hotel was quite clear that they were fully booked and had nothing available throughout the season.
Travel Republic Admin Dept explained that it is quite clear within their terms and conditions that if a holiday is not successfully booked with the hotel, they have forty eight hours to offer an alternative, and the whole thing is at our risk. We can’t cancel the flights. So they have us by the balls. I pointed out that, if they are selling holidays that don’t exist in the first place, they should not be relying on terms and conditions, designed to protect them were they trading in the correct manner.
Either their information systems are hopeless, or Expedia’s, or someone has noticed that taking cute little hotels offline is bad for business. Better to hook people in, get them to book a fake holiday, pay money and then offer them alternatives which the customers have little choice but to accept.
I told Travel Republic I would be blogging their performance for the world to see. They were more concerned to tell me it was all my fault, for not reading their terms and conditions, and for not booking a longer holiday. Had my wife not immediately contacted the hotel, we would not have know for forty eight hours that the holiday was fake. The Admin lady called Jennifer said that, in the normal state of affairs, they would have called us to tell us the hotel booking had failed, and offered us alternatives at the same time. As it is they want us to wait forty eight hours now so they can come up with an offer of alternative accommodation.
No one at Travel Republic seemed in the least bit concerned that they were selling holidays that did not exist in the first place at the moment they were booked. No hint of an apology. Not their fault. Nothing could be done. We can’t cancel as the flights contract is separate to the hotel contract.
Next time I would advise anyone booking a holiday to contact the hotel first to check that the availability advertised is real, before parting with money to online holiday sellers, whether they be Expedia or anyone else. In this day of instant communication, there is no excuse for not knowing what you are selling does not exist. Fake holiday selling must be great for business, and money has a way of corrupting things if management is willing to allow it to do so. It can’t be that great for your reputation, though, if people pass on to others what they have experienced. Yet again trusting names that seem well known is no guarantee. We really are on our own.
Incidentally I own a small hotel myself, and we use an online booking agent. It is a family run online booking service. We know the very instant they receive a booking and keep our availability up to date by the minute. Computers can work, and work very well if anyone has a mind to make them do so. The other notion of using them wrongly to gain financial advantage is equally possible. As for Travel Republic, they want to hide behind Expedia. Why don’t they call the hotels they are booking direct? They must know by now that a lot of the information online is just baloney . They could build a good reputation in the industry for reliability, by taking a little bit of care on behalf of their customers. Otherwise why do we need such people to act on our behalf? They are entirely unnecessary to the process. The information age can bypass them very easily. With their current attitude that’s exactly what they deserve. The internet allows people to see what is being done. And people will walk until they find the product and the quality of service they want and expect.
By the time you’ve called the hotel to check if the availability is as advertised by Expedia etc, you might as well book yourself direct, find a flight and save yourself a few hundred pounds to boot. The hotels could look at working their own websites to get round all this stupidity, and work their own pricing structures.
I will report back here if we get a satisfactory resolution to this fiasco.