Two British tourists visiting Israel last month were shocked to discover that the 4-star, beachfront hotel they had booked in the heart of Jaffa’s picturesque old city was actually a rundown, abandoned building.
Christine Sillman and her daughter Tonya told the Daily Mail this week they reserved a room at the “Royal Jaffa Hotel” after seeing ads on Booking.com boasting of its central location with rooms offering flat-screen TVs, en suite bathrooms and ocean views.
But when they arrived for their two-day visit on May 16, the Sillmans said they found an abandoned, crumbling building that looked more like a construction site than the luxury $152-a-night accommodation that was promised.
“It wasn’t quite the beachfront hotel with sea view balconies that we were expecting,” Sillman told the Mail. “We were walking down the street and got to this building on the corner where the hotel was meant to be. But all we found was a ruin. There were some balconies, lots of ladders hanging about everywhere, and some stairs we walked up that led nowhere.”
“Booking.com should have really checked that the place existed before allowing it to be advertised on their website,” she said.
When they asked around about the hotel, a concierge in a nearby 5-star hotel told the Sillmans they weren’t the first tourists to come looking for the nonexistent Royal Jaffa, and that it was a scam.
Sillman said she and her daughter frantically set out to find a last-minute accommodation in Tel Aviv but, having arrived on the weekend of the Eurovision song contest, the task was not easy.
“We could have been in real trouble as it was the night before Eurovision and everywhere was packed,” she said.
Online, the Royal Jaffa billed itself as a “4-star hotel [with] air-conditioned rooms and a private bathroom.”
“Rooms are fitted with a terrace. At the hotel, rooms come with a balcony with a sea view. The units include a flat-screen TV with satellite channels,” said the ad posted on Booking.com and other sites.
The Royal Jaffa Hotel is no longer listed on Booking.com, and the hotel’s website itself offers little information, and no photos of the actual accommodations. The phone number for the hotel’s manager, Nir Tsouri, was disconnected.
Booking.com has agreed to refund the Sillmans the cost of their alternative accommodation, as well as taxis and other expenses.
A company spokesperson told the Daily Mail that “our top priority is to help guarantee a smooth and pleasant experience for our customers that empowers them to enjoy travelling wherever and whenever they choose.
“As this is not the experience we want for any of our customers, we have apologized to this customer and refunded them in full for the cost of the alternative property that they booked, as well as for any relocation expenses they incurred.”