No air-con­di­tion­ing in my Mex­i­can ho­tel; how about a re­fund?

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Travel - BY CHRISTO­PHER EL­LIOTT

Q: My fam­ily and I re­cently made reser­va­tions at the Villa Las Estrel­las in Tu­lum, Mex­ico, us­ing Book­ing.com. When we ar­rived, we found that the room wasn’t as ad­ver­tised.

Among the prob­lems were ac­ces­si­bil­ity for our dis­abled daugh­ter, who has Down syn­drome and has mo­bil­ity, vi­sion and health is­sues.

The room also had no air con­di­tion­ing. Our room had only one fan, which did not ro­tate and was at floor level. It blew air ei­ther above us or below us. The ho­tel of­fered us an­other fan, but it wasn’t enough and was al­most im­pos­si­ble to put at bed level with the fur­ni­ture in the room. We had only two elec­tri­cal out­lets in the room, so we couldn’t add a third fan.

We couldn’t lock the room, be­cause with doors and win­dows closed it would have been even more un­in­hab­it­able. The screen door did not close en­tirely. We had bugs ga­lore in the room. There was no TV in the room, but there was a com­mon area out­side with a TV. How­ever, a dis­abled per­son would need con­stant su­per­vi­sion there.

Also, noth­ing on Book­ing.com men­tioned that the Villa Las Estrel­las was an “eco-friendly” prop­erty, where ocean wa­ter was used in the sink and for bathing. For our daugh­ter, that is com­pletely un­safe since she would gulp down wa­ter dur­ing bathing.

We let Book­ing.com and Villa Las Estrel­las know as soon as we ar­rived that this would not work for us. The ho­tel of­fered a floor­level room, which cost us ex­tra. But the room didn’t ac­com­mo­date four peo­ple. Can you help us get a re­fund?

A: I’m sorry your fam­ily ended up in a ho­tel room you couldn’t use. Book­ing.com could have done a bet­ter job with the room de­scrip­tion, but this Mex­i­can ho­tel night­mare was also pre­ventable.

If you’re trav­el­ing with some­one who has spe­cial needs, you might con­sider work­ing with a qual­i­fied travel ad­viser. For ex­am­ple, Travel Lead­ers, one of the largest travel agency groups, pub­lishes a list of agents who spe­cial­ize in ac­ces­si­ble travel. There’s also a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion, the So­ci­ety for Ac­ces­si­ble Travel and Hos­pi­tal­ity, that can help con­nect you with a prop­erty or agent that will fit your needs (http://sath.org/).

I think you did your best with the in­for­ma­tion you had. The prop­erty de­scrip­tion seemed ad­e­quate. But ev­ery­one ex­pects air con­di­tion­ing in a mod­ern ho­tel. A TV, too. I think Book­ing.com should have placed a warn­ing on the site if the ho­tel didn’t have any ameni­ties that ev­ery­one takes for granted.

A brief, po­lite email to your on­line agency might have helped. I list the names, num­bers and email ad­dresses of Book­ing.com’s ex­ec­u­tives on my non­profit con­sumer­ad­vo­cacy site.

It turns out your fam­ily booked a “deluxe ocean front” room on the up­per floor of the Villa Las Estrel­las. Air con­di­tion­ing and TV were not listed as ameni­ties for the spe­cific room cat­e­gory cho­sen, ac­cord­ing to Book­ing.com. Your on­line travel agency also ver­i­fied that the ho­tel tried to help you by plac­ing you in a room with AC and giv­ing you ac­cess to a TV lounge.

Book­ing.com of­fered you a re­fund of $833 – half your room rate for the five days you were in Tu­lum – which you ac­cepted.

Christo­pher El­liott is the om­buds­man for Na­tional Geo­graphic Trav­eler mag­a­zine. Read more at el­liott.org, or email chris@el­liott.org.

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