Too good to be true?

Louise Oakley questions if summer deals are delivering as promised

Opinion, Comment & analysis, M, Ritz-carlton

The summer deals flowing into our inboxes this month have been simply astounding. Whether for spa deals, dinner or hotel stays, many seem to start from half the original price and throw some extras in as well. The hoteliers are certainly trying to give us something to smile about this summer.

Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts announced its 2011 summer offers under the umbrella “100% summer fun and 25% extra savings”. Guests staying at 40 Mövenpick hotels across the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa will receive an additional discount up to 25% on the seasonal rates. So at Mövenpick Deira for example, the hotel has taken what was its lowest room rate and applied a 25% discount across the board.

Luxury hotels are also offering fantastic rates: now is certainly the time to book a room at Zabeel Saray on The Palm or at Atlantis – one offer from this hotel even included a dinner for two worth AED 1000 ($272) at Nobu with a one-night stay.

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The new Ritz-Carlton at DIFC took a highly creative approach to its summer packages with the “11 Summer Selections for 2011” promotion starting from AED 2011 ($547) per night inclusive of taxes in an executive suite. This may not sound as cheap as some of the others, but it is certainly good value.

For this, guests staying for a minimum of three nights also get to choose 11 activities, including breakfast for two, or the more exciting 50 minute spa treatment,11 pieces of laundry per day, daily club lounge access or an upgrade to a two-bedroom apartment throughout the stay.

But, generally speaking, are all the hotel deals we hear about really transparent? Or would the asterisks that often punctuate these promotions better be replaced with a ‘++’?

A recent weekend away in the UAE for a friend’s birthday took advantage of one of these great deals at a well known five-star hotel. But, by the end of the experience, I was more inclined to think that the hotel took advantage of us.

Part of the booking was for a birthday brunch for a table of 22 people, no more, no less. So why was there no knowledge of our booking? We were told to spread out among the regular tables set up for groups of four or six.

Of course, that wasn’t acceptable and after half an hour, our table for 22 was created. However, the drinks package we had been promised wasn’t up to expectation and the food was bog-standard buffet quality, not five-star deluxe. And the bar we’d booked, and pre-paid for drinks in afterwards, was apparently closed for refurbishment.

At breakfast the next day the main room was full, so we were herded into another restaurant with a temporary breakfast station, which quite frankly looked like it hadn’t been replenished since the weekend before. Then there was checkout, which provided the bill as expected — although I was told that other members of the group weren’t so lucky.

The cost for this night’s stay, breakfast and brunch for two people was just shy of AED 1300 ($353), which at the time of booking seemed to be amazing value. Unfortunately, because many areas of this five-star hotel’s services were not up to scratch, by the time we left, AED 1300 seemed more than it was worth. We felt ripped off and couldn’t wait to leave.

It could simply be a case of ‘you get what you pay for’ but in some cases, these deals are too good to be true.

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