- A group of French friends thought they’d booked a luxury villa in Hvar, Croatia, but it turned out not to exist.
- Chloé Melin and her 11 friends arrived at the address to find nothing but wasteland.
- They documented the saga on Twitter, and Melin believes that helped them finally get a response from Booking.com, the site through which they’d rented the “property,” according to Le Parisien.
- Booking.com has apologised, and told Insider that “a full refund had been provided to the group,” the listing had been removed, and the company was “covering all relocation expenses and have offered an additional amount as a gesture of goodwill.”
- However, Melin said that two members of the group had to fly home to France as they couldn’t afford a new villa for the two weeks.
- Insider has contacted the group for comment.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A group of French friends were left shocked when they arrived at what should have been the luxury $US7,000 villa they’d booked for their two-week holiday in Croatia, only to find nothing but wasteland.
Parisian Chloé Melin, 22, and her 11 friends travelled to Hvar on Sunday, excited for what they thought would be an idyllic seaside vacation.
They thought they’d successfully booked a villa through Booking.com for €6,240 ($US6,907), but it turned out not to exist.
Initially, the friends presumed they must have the wrong address, Melin told Le Parisien, so they went to ask neighbours and nearby shop workers.
In doing so, they learned that the same thing had happened to some other tourists in July. According to Melin, Booking.com knew about this but didn’t do anything about it, Le Parisien reports.
Melin said they felt “completely humiliated.”
In a screengrab shared by Melin on Twitter of the villa’s listing, it was advertised as being five-star with a pool, hot tub, pergola, terrace, and outdoor kitchen.
— chloe (@chlomlnn) August 19, 2019
The group immediately tried to call the supposed owner using the contact number provided, Le Parisien reports, but no one picked up.
According to Melin, the “owner” had previously been responding to their messages, but shortly after their payment had gone through, about a week before the group’s arrival, they had fallen silent.
The group tried contacting Booking.com next, speaking to various people but not getting anywhere for over five hours, Melin claims.
À la porte d’un terrain vague quand on est arrivé à l’adresse donné par @bookingcom suite à 5h d’appel avec le service client de @bookingcom aucune aide ni geste commercial. pic.twitter.com/WpLCw7Hg8Y
— Julie (@JulieFelice_) August 19, 2019
Melin says someone from the company even told them it wasn’t the company’s fault if they slept outside.
They were ultimately offered a reimbursement for the money within 10 working days, according to their tweets.
After contacting customer service and getting hung up a first time, the only offer is a refund within 10 business days, or booking another villa at our expense. So we find ourselves in Split without housing and without solution!
— Julie (@JulieFelice_) August 18, 2019
However, Melin believes they may never have received this response had she and her friend Julie not documented the whole experience on Twitter, which duly went viral.
“Villa Felipa” has now been removed from the property rental platform, and Booking.com has apologised.
“Because we live for our customers and are super invested in helping to connect them with incredible travel experiences, in the very rare instance that something goes unexpectedly wrong at an accommodation, our dedicated customer service team is on hand 24/7 to support in every way we can,” a spokesperson for Booking.com told Insider.
“We are very sorry for the difficulties that this group encountered. As this is not the experience we want for any of our customers, we have provided a full refund for their original reservation, are covering all relocation expenses and have offered an additional amount as a gesture of goodwill.”
The company added: “This property has also been removed from our site. We successfully facilitate hundreds of thousands of bookings every day that result in great stay experiences for our customers all over the world and we are committed to that mission.”
After spending Sunday night in a hotel, the group of friends said they found another villa to rent, but that this all added to the cost of the trip.
on fait la manche pic.twitter.com/KnC6dCq0GB
— chloe (@chlomlnn) August 19, 2019
Despite Booking.com’s offer of a refund and financial assistance, Melin told Le Parisien: “Two of our friends had to return to France urgently because they weren’t financially able to stay.”
Fortunately, however, Melin says the new villa owners have been accommodating with regard to payment methods.
The now 10-strong group is unsure whether they will be able to stay in Croatia until August 31 as planned due to the financial constraints.
“We all arrived with a budget to cover going out, shopping, and restaurants, but not for a new villa,” Melin said, adding that they deliberately chose to go to Hvar for the nightlife, which she said they now can’t afford to experience.
They’re staying optimistic, though.
“We get on well,” Melin said, telling Le Parisien that they plan to enjoy their remaining days trying not to think about everything that’s happened.
Insider has contacted Chloe Melin and Julie for further comment.