Ironic, but certainly not funny. Chocolate expert Angus Kennedy, his French wife Sophie and their five children who live in Maidstone, landed in Majorca on Monday evening at the start of a seven-night luxury villa holiday. They were all looking forward to spending Easter in Majorca and enjoying father’s exquisite Easter eggs, but their dream break suddenly became a nightmare.
"We flew in from London with a slight delay. The transfer, which was included in the booking we had made on a rentals website which offers lovely properties all over the world, was not there. I just assumed because we were late the driver had taken a break and would return after checking our final arrival time. But time began to tick away and I started to fear the worst. We had been scammed.
"I could not raise anyone from the contact numbers we had, so we jumped into two taxis and headed out to the finca we had rented in S’Esgleieta. We arrived at the property, knocked on the door and the German owner, Klaus, appeared. We told him that we were the tenants for the next week only to be informed that he had no idea what we were talking about, that he does not rent out his property.
"We showed him the website we had booked with on our phones and his property with a selection of images of the exteriors and interior of his house. He was astonished, he couldn’t believe it, nor could we. Fortunately, he could see our predicament and distress. We knew we were in Majorca but that was about it - and had nowhere to stay - we had just lost the best part of 5,000 pounds.
"It was now about 9pm and, rather like the Count of Monte Cristo, Klaus invited us in to stay the night. Dinner was provided, plus a few glasses of wine, accommodation for the night and even breakfast while we tried to get ourselves together and figure out what to do. Our seven-year-old thought it was all part of the holiday, a big fun adventure, but I did my best to explain to him that it was not and that it was in fact a total nightmare situation.
"A lot of friends on Facebook have been very kind and offered to help but that is not the point and this is why one of my first calls was to you at the newspaper. We can’t be the only people to have been conned by this website and it needs to be publicised. The website looks so professiona. Like I said, thousands of properties all over the world, but it’s just so easy to fall into the trap and I don’t want families going through what we are having to deal with right now."
Last night, they had found another villa on top of a hill but with no heating, no wifi and the cooker does not work. Angus may be considered the "world’s leading chocolate taster", but he’s been left with a bitter sweet taste in his mouth, along with rest of his family.
An ABTA spokesperson told the Bulletin yesterday: "ABTA sees at first-hand the damage caused by travel fraudsters after customers find out their much anticipated holiday or trip to visit loved ones may not actually exist. This is why we work with City of London Police and Get Safe Online on our travel fraud advice and awareness campaign. The cost to victims is not just financial; this crime causes very real disappointment and emotional distress. Fraudsters often target destinations and times of year when demand is high and availability limited when they know people will be looking for good deals. This can then make it very difficult and expensive to obtain a legitimate replacement booking once the fraud has been revealed."