The team hear how one family's trip abroad was ruined by a reality very different from the glossy photos the travel brochure had shown.
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We asked you, who's left you feeling ripped off when it comes to your holidays?
And you came back with a catalogue of travel disasters.
It happens all the time,
that somebody else has paid less for the holiday that I paid more for.
The cost of these things is certainly going up and up.
I always think someone is trying to rip me off somewhere along the line!
So whether it's a deliberate rip-off,
a simple mistake or indeed a catch in the small print,
we'll find out why you are out of pocket and what you can do about it.
Your stories, your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello and welcome to another really sunny episode of Rip-Off Britain from Tenerife where, all of
this series, we are investigating
some of the problems that you've been having with your holidays and travel,
and I suppose while it's inevitable
that not everything is ever going to
live up to expectations when you go away, there will, however,
always be some elements
that you would actually consider to be totally fundamental
to what you've booked.
But, you know, it's very clear from all the stories you send us,
that for a lot of you, the reality of what you've got for your money
doesn't quite match up to the glossy pictures in the brochure or indeed
on the website, which, of course,
can leave you feeling thoroughly deflated and just wishing
that you had picked somewhere else to go entirely.
Or when you've got such high hopes pinned on your time away,
there's always the risk of the odd disappointment,
but many of you have told us you would have far rather been given
the full picture in advance
because forewarned is forearmed and at least you would have known
things weren't going to be all you hoped for,
so you might not have been quite so upset
by what you found when you arrived.
Coming up, as the big-name holiday companies announce the death
of the brochure, we test out how they will persuade us to book their trips in the future.
Oh, someone is bringing dinner to me.
Oh, I don't know what that is, but it looks nice.
-Oh, now I can see the sea.
-It feels like I'm actually here.
And when is an all-inclusive not all-inclusive?
How your holiday could end up
costing a lot more than you bargained for.
Over the week of the holiday,
we obviously didn't think that we would have to put our hands in our
pockets, but we ended up spending about between 40 and £60 a day.
Not so long ago when we started planning for a holiday destination,
we would pop into our local travel agent,
pick up a glossy brochure and see all those tempting photographs of
holiday beaches and hotels.
But it seems that the brochure has had its day.
It's been superseded by websites,
which have the same tempting photographs but, of course,
they're much easier and quicker to update. But however you get your
images, what you really want is some kind of guarantee that those images
are an accurate reflection of the destination before you actually arrive there.
Unfortunately, as we've seen all too often on this programme,
that's not always the case, which does rather beg the question,
is it ever possible to get a true picture of any location
before we hand over our money and turn up on holiday?
Well, it seems that technology has a solution and we wanted to see whether
or not it's something that's really going to catch on or if it's any
truer than the photographs in the brochure.
It's a January tradition started back in 1953
when the first-ever holiday brochure was published.
For decades, eager holiday-makers would rush to get the latest copy,
spending hours planning their big summer holiday while it was still winter outside.
Especially at this time of year when it's cold,
it's nice to sit with a coffee and just flick through a brochure.
By looking at brochures,
I can come across somewhere I hadn't thought of going.
They show you the nice, glossy pictures and you hope that that
is really what it looks like and it should be.
We've seen a brochure and we go through hours or maybe two hours going through the holiday,
going through, you know, sifting through it, do it that way.
It's nice just to have a cup of coffee and sit in the conservatory
and look through the holiday brochures.
And it was the glossy holiday photos in the Thomson brochure of
crystal-clear swimming pools, immaculate gardens and spotless restaurants
that convinced Julie Tully from Nottingham to book a two-week
family holiday at the Grand Memories Varadero hotel in Cuba.
In the brochure, the hotel looked very clean and tidy, fantastic gardens.
The rooms looked very large and very comfortable.
The hotel restaurants were all set out with nice tableware,
white table linen,
the waiters were all dressed in very clean and smart uniforms.
This looked like the sort of place that we wanted to spend two weeks
relaxing and enjoying ourselves.
This was a special family holiday to celebrate the 50th birthday of
Julie's husband Mark, so they were willing to push the boat out,
and the hotel didn't come cheap.
For the four of them, the total cost was nearly £7,000.
It's not very often that we'll spend that kind of money,
we usually stay somewhere fairly local and tend to book the flights
and hotels separately ourselves so we were really relying on Thomsons
to deliver a package for us.
Having looked at the brochure,
Julie also checked out the pictures on the company's website and was
reassured that, from the moment they arrived in Cuba,
this would be every bit the holiday of a lifetime.
So, first impressions on arrival, there was a band playing,
there were some drinks being given to us, the gardens looked fantastic,
Cuba itself on first reflection was everything I imagined it would be.
The hotel from the outside looked exactly like the brochure.
But after checking in and as the family made their way
into the hotel, the gloss started to fade.
Julie says that things were very different from how they had appeared in the images in the brochure.
When we arrived in our room, my first thought was, "Well,
"it doesn't quite look like the brochure."
We were expecting a superior room,
it looked more like the standard room.
Um... Very tired looking, needed a little TLC.
Julie had booked this, a superior clubroom,
but Julie says what she actually got was this - a tired,
tatty room with dirty fixtures and fittings.
The bedding was stained, as were the walls,
and the bathroom had seen better, cleaner days,
and as the family ventured out,
they felt the rest of the resort was every bit as rundown as their room.
Unfortunately, the holiday didn't deliver what they advertised in the brochure.
Furniture was broken and tattered,
even the water features in the resort were switched off,
they were just empty pools with the odd stagnant patch of water in them,
definitely not what the pictures in the brochure showed.
Almost as soon as they arrived,
Julie said they wanted to pack their bags and get the first plane out of
there, but they had to stick it out for the whole two weeks.
The disparity between the brochure and what the hotel were actually
offering, they were worlds apart.
In the future, I wouldn't rely on the glossy brochures at all.
Well, Thomson, now known as Tui, has since offered Julie a partial refund,
of £4,000 for the holiday, but when we spoke to the company,
it told us that while it is sorry if any customers aren't entirely happy
with their holiday experience,
it has a dedicated in-house team who photograph its resorts and holiday
accommodation and that it reviews all content including the photographs
every time it produces a brochure.
Even so, Julie still feels the pictures were misleading
and she is unlikely to trust the glossy brochures ever again,
but in an age of rapidly moving technology,
the whole idea of a printed brochure is one that is becoming obsolete
and with so many holidays now booked online,
both First Choice and Tui have said that by 2020 they will
be doing away with the traditional holiday brochure altogether.
And while some will mourn its passing,
most of the people we spoke to thought that was a good idea.
I think cos it's all online now, it is just a bit of a waste of paper,
save the environment, do it all online.
It's all done on the internet now, though, isn't it?
You see everything, you can look things up, that's the thing,
so is a bit old-fashioned now, isn't it?
I don't see the point now of wasting the paper,
especially with the way the world is at the moment.
We need to recycle, we don't need to be making more pointless brochures
when everyone can just go online.
And with print out of fashion, the big holiday companies have much more
modern ideas for showing us their destinations in the future.
Some of them are turning to virtual reality and this video
from Thomas Cook shows the lengths they are going to in order to make
virtual films about the holidays they sell.
The idea is that customers going into the company's stores
can get a taste of the sort of holiday they are after
before handing over any cash.
The technology has already been rolled out in some branches
like this one in a London shopping centre.
So we're going to send you to South Africa today,
so if you would like to pop it on your head, once it's in position,
I'll start the experience of South Africa for you.
The brochures already seem old hat.
Now it's all about experiencing your holiday using a virtual-reality
-I'm on a beach, like,
a really nice beach and I can see the sea just in front of me and I'm
walking into the ocean.
It's really nice and relaxing.
About now...I'm with some nice-looking lady on a boat.
Oh, someone's bringing dinner to me.
Ooh, I don't know what that is, but it looks nice.
Thank you very much.
Oh, now I can see the sea.
-With the coral.
-I'm getting a cocktail.
I'll take that, thank you very much.
I feel as if I'm actually here.
Clearly, virtual reality is simply that, and it's a long way from a true experience,
but while, of course, it is possible that these images, too,
could go out of date, compared with the old two-dimensional photos
in the brochure, it's easy to see that this will provide a fuller,
more realistic view of the holiday that you might want to book.
Already virtual reality is playing an increasingly important role for some
of the people who are wanting to get a wider view of the world.
In Nottingham, 88-year-old Dorothy is fully plugged into the very latest
virtual-reality technology and perhaps that's no surprise as she has long
been up to speed with the latest ideas and equipment.
I was in the Royal Signals.
The Royal Signals are very important to the army because, of course,
they're communications and without communications,
I'm afraid your war is already lost.
And I really enjoyed the technology and talking to ships out at sea
and that sort of thing.
I thought it was magic, absolutely magic.
Dorothy has spinal problems as well as arthritis,
so her days of travel are now over,
but that doesn't stop her from seeing the world the virtual way.
I thought, this is going to be really amazing and should my health
deteriorate even further, you can be almost...
Well, not comatose, but you can be a sick person in bed, for example,
and go to America, Australia, Italy, anywhere you choose.
The way in which Dorothy has embraced this technology
has even impressed the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg,
who publicly paid tribute to her virtual travels.
Dorothy is an 80-year-old grandmother living in the UK.
She owns an Oculus Rift and a few weeks ago,
she posted in the official Rift group on Facebook to troubleshoot
an issue and she said - I'm not going to do the accent well -
"I bought a Rift as I am no longer fit to go on holidays.
"It is fantastic and I am looking at spectacular worlds."
Dorothy is awesome!
It's obvious that Dorothy is sold on the technology,
but not all the shoppers testing it out
were yet convinced that virtual reality can fully replace
the tried and tested ways of booking your holiday.
I prefer a normal brochure,
I'd rather speak to one of the sales consultants in the showroom.
You'll be on the beach, like, you can see the water coming on your feet.
People of my age group still prefer the personal touch.
It's really selling you the holiday.
It's not just Thomas Cook turning to technology to show off its holidays.
Tui, the UK's largest tour operator,
plans to replace brochures with a range of tools including tablets,
interactive maps and online videos to help bring holidays to life.
And it, too, is introducing virtual reality headsets to its stores,
but Dorothy is clearly leading where the travel industry is following
and for many, virtual reality
could prove the ideal way to see the world.
I have to tell myself that I can't keep going on holiday every day.
I mean, I couldn't even walk up a few steps,
but I walked around the Sphinx!
You know, this is a disabled person's dream, in actual fact.
Now, the phrase "you can't have your cake and eat it"
doesn't usually apply to
the concept of all-inclusive holidays where, generally speaking,
you can have your cake, eat it, have another,
and then if you've still got room, do it all over again.
After all, the idea is simple -
most meals and drinks are covered by the price you pay in advance,
meaning a holiday where you leave not only your worries behind, but -
theoretically, at least - your wallet as well.
isn't always quite as inclusive as you might expect.
It can mean very different things
depending on where you travel and with whom.
And that's left some people feeling downright short-changed,
and when you hear what wasn't included on their holidays,
you may well share their indignation.
The all-inclusive holiday first appeared in the 1950s when Club Med
opened a village on the Spanish island of Majorca
and the idea was simple - one price covered everything -
the flights, the accommodation and all your meals and drinks.
It remains a winning idea today, particularly with young families,
and the idea of having paid upfront for everything certainly appealed to
Kevin and Rebecca Swales
when they were booking their honeymoon in the Maldives.
We thought everything was included, so we were looking forward to it
and we thought we would have a lovely honeymoon.
To help with the £5,000 price tag for their two weeks of luxury,
Kevin and Rebecca asked family and friends to chip in
as a wedding gift, so they could enjoy their holiday
without fretting about what they were spending.
We didn't want to worry about spending the extra money
while we were out there,
we wanted to know in our heads that we can go there,
we can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, have drinks
and not worry about the money.
And that's what we wanted and that's why we booked it.
So, once the wedding was over,
the newlyweds took the long journey by plane and by boat to their island
on the Maldives, but once there,
it didn't take long to realise that their honeymoon wasn't going to be
quite as all-inclusive as they had expected.
Most of the drinks wasn't included in the package.
Now, you go to the bar during the day
and the drinks package was only, like, three drinks on their menu
and anything extra you had to pay for it.
Now, I've been to all-inclusive before and that has never happened to me before.
It just wasn't all-inclusive to me.
Worse still, the real basics like bottled water were also chargeable.
Now, there's two of us, the temperatures were really hot,
I drink a lot of water and we ran out of water,
so I asked for a bottle of water and then I realised it had been charged
to my room at the end of it
and I wasn't very happy about it and I said
something to the staff and they said, "Well, any extra bottled water is chargeable."
All these things started adding up
and every time we went to the bar, everything was extra.
And unlike all the other all-inclusive holidays Kevin had been on,
any type of snack in between meals also incurred an extra cost.
I would happily pay extra for something that wasn't on the all-inclusive,
that we had to pay extra for, like, a branded drink or something like that.
That's not an issue, but the thing is, when you go on all-inclusive,
you pay for that all-inclusive
so you haven't got to worry about the simple things.
You know, the water, the little snacks during the day,
and most things that come with every time you book all-inclusive.
The couple felt that being charged for extra food and drink was ruining
their honeymoon, not least because this was a holiday
mainly gifted to them by the guests at their wedding.
My wife was very upset.
She was so angry about it because it wasn't just our money,
it was other people's money, it was our presents from our wedding
and it just upset us both.
Kevin complained to the company they had booked with, Travelbag,
and the hotel itself
then upgraded them to a different property on another island
where they had exactly all the inclusive experience they had wanted all along.
When we arrived at the other island, it was luxury and it's what I
thought I had paid for in the first place.
When the newlyweds got home, they complained to Travelbag again,
hoping they would get a refund for the unexpected costs from the first
hotel but the company directed them to its booking conditions,
which make clear that when purchasing holiday arrangements
on a half-board, full board or all-inclusive basis,
restrictions may apply, and that doesn't feel quite right to Kevin.
He believes that when he booked a honeymoon described as all-inclusive,
it should have been exactly that - with everything included.
I would always double-check what you're getting for your money
and read those terms and conditions,
because my holiday that I booked with the company
wasn't what we expected
and not what we wanted to get out of an all-inclusive holiday.
And after looking at his case,
travel expert Bob Atkinson thinks Kevin may have a point.
Investigating the offer that they had,
I do think that Kevin and his wife
have a case to follow up with Travelbag.
When you book online through Travelbag -
who are a perfectly reputable company -
they do not disclose online the full extent of what is included
and what is excluded in an all-inclusive holiday.
They merely say that some things will be chargeable
when you get to the destination.
There's no further information that I can see that they send out
to their customers or that you can see on their website
or in the terms and conditions.
When we spoke to Travelbag about Kevin and Rebecca's story,
the company says it is very sorry their honeymoon didn't live up to
expectations, but it reiterated that before confirming the booking,
they were informed that some restrictions would apply
and at no stage before departure
had they indicated that anything was unclear.
It says that during their stay,
the hotel promptly addressed their concerns,
upgrading them to an alternative villa with private butler,
then moving them to a sister hotel.
The company added it has reimbursed the couple for the calls they made
about this and offered £150 voucher as a gesture of goodwill.
But we've heard from many other people who report that
exactly what is covered by the term all-inclusive
can vary wildly between different holiday companies,
so Bob says you shouldn't assume that everything will always be included.
There's a real excitement when you book your holiday, but, of course,
often what you don't do is check exactly what is included
and you're just sitting there thinking, we're going all-inclusive, let the party begin!
So, of course, when you arrive,
if you find when you get there that certain items aren't included or
maybe the bar doesn't open to a certain time or perhaps breakfast stops at a certain time
and you can't get any food until later,
that's when it starts to sink in,
that maybe the expectation you had of this kind of nonstop smorgasbord
of food and drink and activities
is actually possibly going to be something quite different,
but it's really important that whatever your expectation
is of an all-inclusive holiday,
you actually check out what you're actually getting for your money.
Barry and Barbara from Newcastle got in touch with us,
unhappy with how an all-inclusive cruise turned out for their family.
They had wanted a holiday where they wouldn't need to shell out
every time someone wanted a drink or an ice cream,
but at £4,700, it hadn't come cheap.
When they said the price, it was rather costly, but I thought,
I can put the overtime in and I can get it.
At least everything is paid for.
The kids will enjoy it.
I'll enjoy it and it's worth saving up for.
So I just put the overtime in as much as I could and paid it off
and the reason it being all-inclusive,
I didn't have a lot more money to put out once I was there.
Considering the price they had paid, this holiday was a big deal,
so when the ship set sail, expectations were high.
When the kids got up in the morning,
obviously excited, they're going up onto the deck, they want the sun,
they want to play, and they're wanting juice and pop and crisps
and ice creams, so I didn't expect to pay for that -
I expected they could go as many times as they liked.
But it immediately became clear that was not how it would go.
Well, we were just relaxing around the pools and two of our
daughters went off for ice creams and they came back and said,
"We can't have ice creams, we've got to pay for them."
So obviously we went down to see reception,
asked them about all-inclusive and obviously they
said we weren't all-inclusive, which we paid all-inclusive.
Confident they had booked all-inclusive, Barry and Barbara
couldn't understand why they were being told they hadn't
and as all those extras mounted up,
keen not to ruin the holiday for the children,
they say they totted up hundreds in unexpected charges.
Over the week of the holiday, we obviously he didn't think that
we would have to put our hands in our pockets,
but the stuff that they were saying that we had to pay for -
ice creams and pop, crisps, stuff, etc -
we ended up spending between 40 and £60 a day.
It's £2.85 for that cheapest ice cream, if you can remember.
Well, all the paperwork for the trip
very clearly does say all-inclusive.
-Well, when we saw the
holiday was all-inclusive, we thought
it was going to be a fantastic holiday and obviously
we got misled about the holiday and we got sold the wrong holiday.
We contacted Tui, which provided the cruise under its old name of Thomson and the company
said that while it is sorry to hear that Barry and Barbara were unhappy,
what they had actually bought was an all-inclusive drinks package
and when they booked, they had ticked to say they had read
and agreed what the package did and didn't include. However,
Tui went on to say it appears there may have been a miscommunication
between the agent and the couple at the time of booking,
so it has offered £200 as a gesture of goodwill
and the company says it has now
changed the way this particular holiday is sold.
Barry and Barbara remain disappointed about their cruise,
but are keen to warn others that in the excitement of booking a holiday,
it is well worth taking the time to read the small print
before handing over any money.
The advice I would give anybody booking this kind of trip
is to go right into detail with it
and make sure what it is you're entitled to,
what it is you're going to get, if you can find out
if anybody has been on that ship look at the comments, and just make sure
what it is you are actually going to get for your money.
Still to come on Rip-Off Britain,
how even the biggest holiday companies are still
getting it wrong for travellers with a disability.
I just couldn't wait to get off the ship
and I actually went into the cabin
and I actually sat on the end of the bed and cried.
Our travel expert Simon Calder
is full of tips to save you money on your travels.
He's got plenty of advice
on everything from how to avoid the crowds
to the best way to steer clear of those tourist traps.
This time, fancy something new?
Then how about the former USSR as your next holiday hot spot?
The most exciting countries I've been to over the past year
are all places that were virtually off the map
until the collapse of communism
and, over a quarter of a century later,
they still get far fewer visitors than they deserve.
Therefore, you can expect great experiences and value with welcoming people who aren't
fed up with tourists...yet. So get there quick!
Of all the countries that surround the Mediterranean,
Albania probably isn't the first that springs to mind as a holiday
destination, but with direct flights from Gatwick to the capital Tirana,
it certainly shouldn't be off your radar.
Yet having travelled extensively in Albania, I must say,
the most appealing parts of the country
are best reached by flying to an adjacent nation
and then crossing the border or the water.
For example, the southern port of Sarande
close to the historic Roman ruins at Butrint
is just half an hour from the Greek island of Corfu.
And the spectacular mountains in the east
are equally as easy to reach by flying to Ohrid in Macedonia
and then driving across the border
and through some stunning scenery into Albania.
Georgia's on my mind as well -
the former Soviet Republic is now on the budget airline map from Britain
with one flight from Gatwick and another from Luton.
They both take off in the evening and arrive early next morning.
Yes, they're midnight planes to Georgia.
Once there, you'll be torn between the Black Sea resorts,
the mountain escapes with a vibrant city life of the capital Tbilisi.
Besides the best food and drink in the entire USSR - and, believe me,
I have researched that very thoroughly -
Georgia also has the best money exchange market I have ever seen,
so don't even think about changing cash in advance.
When you touch down, you'll find loads of Bureaux de Change with margins so thin that it's
worth you taking sterling, changing it into Georgian lari,
and immediately buying euros or dollars at far better rates
than you'll get in Britain.
Simon's third choice of alternative destination, Uzbekistan,
is home to some of arguably the world's most beautiful cities.
Samarkand, Burkhara and Khiva are strung out across the harsh
desert landscapes of the country
with glimpses of the Himalayas to the south.
The flying time to the Uzbek capital Tashkent is pretty much the
same from the UK as it is to Dubai.
Airfares are a little bit higher, but when you get there,
life is so much cheaper and, as a taste of the exotic east,
I must say Uzbekistan is an awful lot more authentic.
The country is partly known for
its links to the ancient Silk Road trade route between
China and the Mediterranean.
However, getting about these days is far easier than back then.
No need for a camel if you want to travel the Silk Road these days.
Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara are connected by Central Asia's only
high-speed train. Elsewhere, there's lots of cheap and cheerful
Not always comfortable, though.
Lots of humps in the road.
Over the years, several times we have reported on
how important it really is for anyone with a disability
to be given the right information as to whether a resort or a hotel
is suitable for their needs. And sometimes even the smallest detail
or adjustment can make all the difference in the world
when it comes to whether or not a destination is appropriate.
But I'm afraid to say yet again that you've been telling us about
some companies that don't always get it right, including -
and I hate to say this - some that specialise in accessible holidays,
all of which has left some of the people we've heard from wondering
whether or not in the long run, leaving home to go on holiday
was worth any of the bother or indeed the money.
Being disabled shouldn't in this day and age
be a bar to travelling abroad, and in most parts of the world,
airports, airlines, hotels and resorts
are geared up to accommodate those
who may need assistance getting around. Even so,
making a trip with a wheelchair or a walking stick can seem daunting,
especially if it's your first time.
Tam Black from Edinburgh has had mobility issues for years,
but it hasn't stopped him holidaying abroad.
My wife and I have actually travelled quite a lot.
We've travelled all over Europe,
been to America, Canada, Asia, and one of the best holidays
I ever had was to Kenya and Mauritius for my 50th.
But Tam and his wife's travels became increasingly restricted as his mobility deteriorated
and when he became dependent on a wheelchair,
they stopped altogether. Or they did until it came to his 60th birthday,
when Tam's family encouraged him to book a cruise.
He chose one with Thomson, paying just over £2,000
for a trip from Corfu to Montenegro. And ahead of travel,
Thomson's welfare team called to reassure him that the ship they were
travelling on was suitable for wheelchair users.
For the first time, I was actually ecstatic
and the fact that the welfare people reassured me that everything
would be taken care of and they had dealt with people
with disabilities before, that was great,
and all I had to do was enjoy the holiday.
Tam was told that while the ship's disabled rooms were fully booked,
the cabin would be big enough for his wheelchair,
so on the day of departure,
Tam and his wife made their way to Edinburgh Airport where prearranged
special assistants were supposed to be there to meet them.
We arrived at the airport and they had no idea that we were
coming in a wheelchair and I was asked if I wanted to
take the wheelchair on the plane with me or what I wanted to do with it and I thought,
"Erm, well, no, I want to take it." And they were just bemused.
Now, that wasn't a good start,
and once in Corfu, the problems continued.
The couple had booked coach transfers between the airport to the port,
but it seemed the wheelchair was a problem.
The coach driver said, "Sorry,
"but you can't take the wheelchair on the bus.
"There's no room."
And I went, "OK, how do I get from here?
"What will happen to the wheelchair?"
"You'll have to get another coach to take your wheelchair to the boat."
So, after much discussion, Tam was allowed on the coach,
but things were no better when he got to the ship.
It was one single gangway, probably about two widths of this wheelchair.
It was really, really steep and my wife said,
"I can't push you up that,
"there's no way I could push you up that."
She said, "How are we going to get on this thing?"
That's what she called it.
Four staff from the ship arrived to carry Tam up the gangway,
an experience he will never forget.
I was actually scared.
I was petrified that I was going to fall in.
You feel treated like a piece of baggage.
And his relief at finally being on board proved short-lived.
We went down the corridor, she got the key card,
opened the door and then she said, "I'll push you in."
And it wouldn't go in.
The door was simply too narrow for his wheelchair and after lifting
himself into the room, he realised he barely had enough space to move.
I couldn't even go to the toilet using the wheelchair.
I had to use the wheelchair as a Zimmer and then hold on to things to
actually get into the toilet. And the toilet had a step
that was about, I don't know, about...
..15 inches high.
Despite the reassurance from Thomson
that all would be fine, the holiday was turning out to be a disaster.
I couldn't wait to go home.
Seriously, I just couldn't wait to get off the ship.
And I actually went into the cabin
and I actually sat on the end of the bed and cried.
And I... I dinnae cry.
I literally don't cry.
Within a day of being on board, Tam had had enough.
My wife came back, I said, "Can I ask to do something?"
And she goes, "What?"
I says, "Can I ask you if we can go to the next port and just go home?"
But unable to arrange an earlier flight back to Edinburgh,
there was no option but to stay on the ship and, to make things worse,
when they got to Venice and Montenegro,
they were told they couldn't disembark because the ports had no wheelchair access.
But Thomson, now known as Tui,
sincerely apologised to Tam for his experience, telling us that,
"Unfortunately, detail of his access needs were not passed on to the ship
"due to human error." As a result,
it has given him a full refund
and while the company says such incidents are rare,
it will be reviewing its booking processes
and providing further training to its customer service teams.
People travelling with disabilities
will often have very different needs but in any case,
in the UK at least, the law says that all hotels or resorts have to make
reasonable adjustments to ensure disabled travellers can access
the same facilities as anybody else.
-To the left is Whinlatter Forest.
Carrie-Ann Lightley is from Tourism For All,
a national charity providing disabled travellers with information
about suitable holidays and places to visit.
Today, she's in Cumbria,
checking out facilities at a holiday centre called the Calvert Trust.
I think definitely holiday companies should be able to tell you
from the very beginning
whether or not a holiday is going to be suitable for your needs.
Yeah, even if that does mean that they will lose money,
I think the single biggest barrier to accessible holidays for everybody
is reliable information, and once we have that
and once we know what to expect,
then we can adapt and get the most out of a holiday experience.
And while trying to factor in
any additional needs and equipment can be daunting,
Carrie-Ann is confident that there is good support available.
It's amazing, I've never seen anything like this before.
Contact a supportive organisation,
contact an organisation like Tourism For All,
speak to people who have travelled a lot as disabled people,
speak to people who've had good experiences,
because it isn't all bad.
So this is the wheelchair assault course.
-And there's lots of different elements across it
to make it more challenging.
It can sometimes be more difficult than your standard holiday,
but I actually think that makes the final destination,
the final holiday experience feel all the more richer.
Seeking out holidays or hotels
where other disabled travellers have enjoyed good experiences
seems like sound advice to me,
but it seems even the experts may not get it right every time.
Jane has been a wheelchair user for over 20 years
and is largely housebound,
so for her, holidays take on an extra importance.
To be able to go somewhere new, to look at different scenery,
just that change of routine, a different view from the window.
It was like a five-year-old looking forward to Christmas.
When Jane and her husband Colin
decided to book a ten-day holiday to Ireland,
they were concerned about finding a hotel which could
accommodate her wheelchair, so they used a travel company
which claims to guarantee accessible accommodation
and take the worry out of your holiday.
I felt that we should be confident
that they would be able to give us the facilities
we need for my wife on a holiday that we want to do once a year.
The booking process required them
to go into great detail about Jane's needs
so that they could be matched up with somewhere suitable,
and the place they ended up choosing sounded ideal.
We were told that Jane's facilities were fully taken into account
and that we would be very pleased with the facilities when we arrived.
But after a 12-hour journey by car and ferry
from their home in Balloch in Scotland, to Ireland,
the couple were really disappointed with the room they were given.
We found that, unfortunately, the room was so small
that we couldn't get the wheelchair in
with all the facilities that were there.
The staff had to move the bed,
push it up against the wall and unfortunately we found that Jane
couldn't physically use the bathroom facilities because the wheelchair
couldn't get through the door.
After talking to the hotel staff,
Jane and Colin decided to look for somewhere else to stay.
We were very fortunate that the actual staff in the reception desk,
they were very helpful, they started phoning around local hotels.
But when Colin got in touch with the company the next day,
it said there was no better alternative in the area
for their particular requirements.
They came back and said there was nothing they could provide us with
that was suitable. Therefore, they told us, we had no choice
but to go back and accept their facilities.
We said this was absolutely impossible.
So Jane and Colin made the decision
to fork out another £1,000 to stay somewhere else.
The holiday was stressful,
definitely didn't recharge our batteries the way we'd hoped for.
Well, the company told us
it deeply regrets that Jane and Colin found their holiday upsetting,
but it disagrees with their version of events,
pointing out that the hotel it recommended is a fully accessible
specialist holiday location, and as such all bedrooms
have wheelchair accessible roll-in wet rooms
with hoists and additional appliances available as needed.
It says it has a robust process to ensure customers are matched with
thoroughly vetted properties that meet their specific needs.
The company says after this booking was made,
it had stayed in contact with Colin, updating requirements as requested
and also checking that the room allocated would be suitable.
It went on to say that Jane and Colin chose not to view the alternative
room options offered and nor did they relay their concerns to the company
straightaway despite its offices being open.
But it added that at the time,
it had offered a refund as a gesture of goodwill,
and that offer still stands.
Well, stories like that one highlight just how much planning by
individuals and companies alike goes into making sure anyone with
a disability can enjoy the holiday they want
and the level of disappointment
if they feel things haven't gone to plan,
which is why back at the outdoor pursuits centre she is testing in
Cumbria, Carrie-Ann says the key to all of this is having very detailed
conversations before making a booking.
I would ask my travel agent to talk me through the process of what
happens when I get to the airport, how am I going to be assisted?
How is my mobility equipment going to be treated
and taken onto the plane?
And just, as I say, to get talked through the process,
because once you have that knowledge,
it gives an extra level of confidence.
But Carrie-Ann is a firm believer that there should be no barrier
to what a disabled person can expect on their holiday.
The more that disabled people get out there and travel and enjoy their
holidays, then the more that that is going to improve the experience for
everybody because the industry should be seeing that we are
a market that can make some money.
If you can get over all of those obstacles that are somehow
put in your way as a wheelchair user
and still make it to your dream holiday destination
and to be able to say, "I've got here and I've done it,"
that's an amazing feeling and I think it's worth the effort.
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Well, I'm afraid that brings us to the end of today's programme
and I don't know about you,
but I really felt for Tam after hearing about his experiences,
and I think it really would be a terrible shame if that
was going to put him off travelling altogether.
That is so true, and it also goes to show how
important it is for people to have the right information to hand,
whether that's up-to-date photographs
showing accurate descriptions of what the place they have booked
is really like or even just a proper understanding
of what is and isn't included.
Yeah, it could certainly save a lot of disappointment
further down the line.
Well, thanks to all of those who have shared their stories
with us today and of course to you for joining us.
We've plenty more Rip-Off Britain programmes coming up,
so please do keep telling us about
any issues you'd like us to investigate
and we'll see if we can help. For now, though, from all of us,
As big holiday companies announce the end of their traditional brochures, Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford hear how one family's trip abroad was ruined by a reality very different from the glossy photos the brochure had shown, and there is a test into the new ways people will be encouraged to book their travels in the future.
The programme also hears from the families furious that their apparently all-inclusive holidays ended up costing a lot more than they bargained for, travel expert Simon Calder reveals his pick of the undiscovered destinations people should consider for 2018, and there is a look at how travellers with disabilities can still find themselves booked into accommodation that doesn't match their needs.