Is this MISREPRESENTATION or just DESCRIPTIVE LICENCE?
Imagine this. You are thinking about next year's holiday and you feel you want to guarantee some sun and warm weather. After all, if you're from nothern Europe it's pretty cold and dark right now so the thought of sunshine is VERY appealing.
You check out the brochures and decide to come to Egypt.
You find a hotel you like the look of, the price is right and you think you know where the hotel is. After all it tells you in the brochure. Maybe you're in Hurghada, for example. You check out Hurghada on the internet and decide it's the sort of place you'd like to spend your time.
You go ahead and book. You wait. The day finally arrives for you to travel. You are exccited. The day travelling tires you out but you finally land at the destination airport, board the transfer coach and arrive at your hotel. The hotel is fine and lives up to all expectations. You felt the rush of heat from the tarmac when you got off the plane so the weather is also at least up to expectations if not beyond.
Your room is OK. It may not exactly match the picture in the brochure but there is certainly a room somewhere in the hotel that does. But you have a balcony with a nice view and the room is clean. You start to unpack then set off in search of the restaurant. You are very hungry.
The food is OK but not gourmet cuisine. Still what did you expect for a relatively cheap all-inclusive deal. You can at least find something along the buffet that you recognise or like the look of and it doesn't taste at all bad. You have dessert and then go in search of the "free" alcohol.
You find the bar and settle for a couple of hours before retiring to bed. It has been an exceptionally long day and you are exhausted.
The next day you wake late, have breakfast and determine to check out the local town. After all, you booked a hotel in Hurghada right (or Safaga or Quseir or Marsa Alam etc)?
This is where it all goes tits up (if you'll pardon the expression). When I was working as a Resort Rep (Tour Leader) in Hurghada one of the most frequent complaints was, "we booked this hotel because it's supposed to be in Hurghada but there's nothing here".
The guests were right, so how come?
In this case the hotel was a 20 minute drive from Hurghada town centre. It cost LE2 (about €0.25/£0.20) on the local microbus (quite an experience if you haven't been in Egypt or somewhere else similar before. Also check out a previous blog - it can be quite a difficult and intimidating experience if you don't speak Arabic and know exactly where you want to go) or LE30 (about €3.75/£3.00) in the local taxi. You are, of course, encouraged to take the hotel limousine service. Don't be taken in by the name - you will not get a big stretched white limmo. This is just a normal car with a driver. This will cost you about €10. Everything in the hotels is priced in Euros and the Euro is the currency of choice at the moment in Egypt. However, they will readily also take Sterling and US Dollars.
This particular hotel was right on a main road which made getting a bus or a taxi relatively easy. There is also some development around it, including a decent sized mall with some good shops, coffee outlets and restaurants which gives an opportunity to shop for those who don't want to risk the local transport. The mall is a 5 minute walk away from this hotel.
Not all the hotels are as lucky.
So, were the guests misled by the brochure listing the hotel as being in Hurghada?
I currently work at a dive centre based in the grounds of the Pensee Azur/Utopia Beach hotels. We have a house reef that is arguably the best in the entire Red Sea. First, here is the truth about the hotel.
The Pensee Azur/Utopia Beach complex is approximatley 20km from the nearest town - a small place of 50,000 inhabitants called El Quseir. The nearest airport is 40km to the south and is called Marsa Alam International Airport. In fact, the airport is just outside a small place called Port Ghalib which is a new, man-made town on the edge of the desert. The Pensee Azur/Utopia Beach is about 120km north of Marsa Alam city (it's a small place and anywhere else would be called a village or, at best, a town).
In the brochures this hotel is listed as the Pensee Azur, MARSA ALAM!!!!!
Every day on my way to work I pass a construction site where a new hotel is being built. The board outside the site advertises the development of the Novotel MARSA ALAM yet it's 2km or 3km further away from Marsa Alam than the Pensee.
In this area the hotels really are remote. For example, the nearest neighbours to the Pensee/Utopia complex are at least 5km away. The hotel is on a main road (the main route from the north to Marsa Alam passing through Hurghada, Safaga, El Quseir and Port Ghalib) but there is no bus or taxis service on this road. Across the road is only desert.
In Hurghada the company I worked for got away with their description because along the main highway there are signs saying "Welcome to Hurghada" placed about 15km north of the city and again about 30km to the south. As the hotel lies between these 2 signs there is a argument, albeit a specious one, that the hotel is, in fact, in Hurghada.
This is not the case with the Pensee. There are signs saying "Welcome to Quseir". One is placed about 30kn to the north and the other about 35km to the south. Using the same logic as above we could, then, say that the hotel is in El Quseir so how can it be described as being in Marsa Alam.
Here is another ruse the travel companies are using. If your flight lands at Marsa Alam International Airport then automatically the hotel served by these flights is designated as being in Marsa Alam. But, don't forget, the airport is already 80km north of Marsa Alam itself.
Are you being lied to?
Only you can decide if you believe this to be a case of misrepresentation in the brochure or simply a case of descriptive licence.
It's up to you.