In February, we responded to a promotion by travel firm Holiday Gems for an all-inclusive package to the Bluesea Callao Garden hotel in Tenerife. We paid £850 for a week’s stay in June. On arrival at 9pm, we found the hotel closed. I rang Holiday Gems on its emergency number and was advised to find another hotel that could take us and wait for them to get in touch the following day.
We are both in our 70s and my wife has recently recovered from major surgery. We had to haul our luggage to the nearest hotel which was full, but the receptionist phoned around and found us a room in town at €104 a night. The next morning there was no word from Holiday Gems. The emergency number was closed so I emailed to say that unless we heard by midday, when we had to check out of our room, we would book it for the remaining six nights. It wasn’t until 12.30pm, when we’d paid another €537 for the week, that Holiday Gems told us we were expected at a hotel in Santiago, 16 miles away.
The price of the new hotel did not include meals, so we restricted ourselves to one meal a day to save costs. We later discovered that the Bluesea hotel had been closed for renovations for two years. We’ve been left nearly £1,000 out of pocket, our holiday was spoiled by stress, and we have yet to hear back from Holiday Gems about whether we’ll be refunded. If we hadn’t had a credit card with us I don’t know what would have happened.
GA, Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire
Holiday Gems told me it booked the hotel in “good faith” and doubtless it did, but there is evidently a serious flaw in a system that does not flag up unavailable accommodation. More concerning is the apparent lack of support when you found yourselves without a bed for the night. If the first hotel you tried could ring around town and find you a berth, you’d assume Holiday Gems could have done the same.
The company did not address my questions about its customer care, but it did decide it would refund you the cost of the original hotel and add £200 compensation for the “frustration”– a total of £612. That doesn’t even cover your costs. When I pointed this out, it doubled the “compensation”, which means you will not be out of pocket but will not, despite the company’s assurances, have received anything to reflect the stress and disappointment.
Holiday Gems appears to believe itself the injured party. “We are very disappointed that this has escalated since this is not a true reflection of our usual quality of service,” it says. “We have addressed the issues that caused the in-resort situation to arise with both our local partners and internal teams, to ensure that this is an isolated occurrence.”
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