When globetrotters turned to online accommodation platforms to book their dream getaways, it was all about convenience and affordability. Who doesn’t love browsing and comparing hotel options with a few clicks?
RECENT reports from Japan highlight a concerning trend in the world of online hotel bookings. Travellers who rely on popular accommodation platforms like “Booking.com” to secure their lodging are increasingly encountering “fake hotels”.
Instead of the posh villa they envisioned, they are welcomed by an abandoned house.
According to the Japanese news outlet “FNN”, a recent case involved a 19-year-old traveller who made a reservation through “Booking.com” for a hotel in Chiba Prefecture on August 10.
The online listing featured enticing amenities such as BBQ facilities, a terrace, and an outdoor bathtub. But, when the guest arrived at the provided address, they found an abandoned residence instead of the advertised luxury villa.
The victim of the scam recounted his initial disbelief upon realising he had fallen prey to a deceptive hotel listing.
Upon a closer examination of the “fake hotel” web page he noticed strange Japanese text in the hotel information part, suggesting that someone might have used translation software to create it.
The fact that there were no contact details, like phone numbers, roused suspicion. It was noted that the “fake hotel” had mysteriously vanished from the booking platform.
Although the man eventually received a full refund of ¥33,000 (approximately R4,242,88) from Booking.com, the total expenses of his trip, including car rentals and other costs amounting to roughly ¥100,000 (approximately R12,852,61), were irrecoverable.
Interestingly, the review section of the “fake hotel” page contained comments from other guests, who visited the same “fake hotel”, and had left comments in the review section, saying things like, “This hotel is a scam”.
Upon FNN’s visit to the address associated with the hotel they found that about 10 different groups of people had gone there, not realising it was involved in fraudulent activities.
What’s worse, the pictures used on the “fake hotel” page were stolen from a real villa listed on a different booking website.
The owners of the real villa are worried because they don’t know how many people were scammed, and it could harm their villa’s reputation. People have even questioned if their villa is real.
Some people in Japan are saying that hotels and inns should have specific licenses with details like their name, location, license number, and when the license expires.
They believe that booking websites should make sure accommodations have these licenses before they can be listed to stop fraud in the future.