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The Great Holiday Swindle

by Laurence Clark

18th June 2007

I've finally managed to book a holiday in Eqypt after months of being messed about.
Holiday suitcases and a sun hat
First of all I tried to book with a certain well-known high street travel agent. They gladly took my deposit, but then they couldn't guarantee me an accessible room with a level access shower, even though the hotel had two such rooms available.

If I'd turned up and one of those rooms wasn't available, I'd have probably spent the holiday being pretty smelly since a fortnight is one hell of a long time to go without a shower - especially in the blistering hot Egyptian sun. This actually happened to me whilst I was honeymoon in Gran Canaria. After two weeks I was covered in bruises from climbing in and out of a bath every day, as the hotel claimed that they didn't have showers. But after checking out, by chance I went to use the accessible toilet in the lobby and - lo and behold! - discovered they did actually have a level access shower, but that none of the staff knew of its existence. You can imagine how I felt at the time!

Anyway, back to my current holiday booking tale. I then approached a specialist travel agent for disabled people. They could guarantee me the accessible room, but wanted over £500 more for booking the exact same hotel and flights on the same dates. Now, I am of course quite used to having to pay more for things to be made accessible - after all, the original thinking behind Disability Living Allowance was that it would provide compensation for the additional costs of having an impairment - but in this instance I couldn't really fathom the reasoning behind charging more for pretty much the same thing.

I then hit upon the brainwave of trying to book the room directly, as this particular hotel was part of a very well-known international chain. Surely the company itself could guarantee me one of their own accessible rooms?
An Egyptian sunset
Well, not exactly. According to their website, they could guarantee me a queen, twin, or deluxe room - or even a diplomatic suite, whatever that is. I could also specify smoking or non-smoking, sea or inland view, feather or foam pillows, how I wanted my eggs done in the morning. Pretty much anything, in fact, except for the accessible room.

I even tried calling the company's own UK reservations line. They were more than happy to take my booking, but were adamant that I would have to phone their hotel in Eqypt and arrange an accessible room myself. I made several attempts to call them but, unsurprisingly, the combination of a crackling international phone line, my slurred speech and their poor English meant they couldn't understand a word I was saying.

By this point I was getting so frustrated that I even began wondering whether another trip to Lourdes was such a bad option after all. Yes, I was actually that desperate!

But instead of turning to religion in my hour of need, I looked to something far more practical instead - the World Wide Web. After a couple of hours with a certain well-known search engine, I found an internet-based travel agent who only wanted fifty quid more than the high street price for booking the exact same holiday, but with the accessible room guaranteed.

Praise the web!
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