Deal or no deal?Special offers not what they're cracked up to be

28 March 2010

A tropical beach

The east coast of Zanzibar is popular with honeymooners

The holiday offers advertised in national newspapers are not always what they seem, new research from Which? Holiday has found.

Which? Holiday researchers found that eight of the sixteen holiday offers that they investigated were unavailable at the price advertised, and two other offers were not quite as they appeared. Prices quoted to researchers were between £9 and £86 a person more expensive than advertised.

Holiday offer not as it seemed

A special offer from Cyprus Paradise promised seven nights four-star accommodation with free car hire. However, the free car hire was for one day only, not for the full week as implied in the advert. In addition, the price in the special offer was for a hotel that was 10km from the main town. The salesperson proceeded to try to sell a different hotel, closer to town, but this would have meant a price increase of £157 a person.

Holiday offers downgraded

The Which? Holiday investigation also found that while some of the holiday offers matched the advertised price, the holiday was downgraded from what was initially promoted in the ad.

Accommodation offered by Thomas Cook was downgraded from a garden room to a standard room while Kuoni offered room-only instead of bed & breakfast as advertised.

During the investigation, two companies told researchers the offers had sold out because they hadn’t called at the weekend, when the ads were published.

Cheaper than advertised

Five of the special offers were available as advertised with two being cheaper than the ad. A 17-night tour of South Africa with Saga ranged from between £1,899-£2,299 depending on the date of travel.

The advertised price was £2,299. Another cheaper offer was with Monarch to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt. On the day of the test, the advertised price of £329 was reduced to £325.50 for travel in February and was lower still for travel in March (£294.50).

All 16 special offers investigated carried heavy date restrictions, albeit often in the very small print at the bottom of the ad. Unsurprisingly, none of the deals were available during the busy summer period. 

Rochelle Turner, head of research for Which? Holiday, said: ‘We want holiday companies to be upfront with consumers otherwise people just feel cheated. If you can be flexible with travel dates then you could bag a bargain.’

She added: ‘Our advice to anyone planning a trip is always shop around for the best deal. Don’t take special offer ads at face value - while you may be able to get a good deal, they’re not always what they seem.’

Which? Holiday

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