The website www.thomsonworldwide.com advertised a hotel in the Maldives, "Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu". The website featured a number of photographs of the hotel, island, resort and surrounding beaches.
A complainant, who had recently stayed at the hotel and had found that the beaches had sandbags positioned on them, challenged whether the photographs featured in the ad were a true representation.
Hayes & Jarvis (Travel) Ltd t/a Thomson Tailormade said the whole of the Maldives suffered from climate change difficulties and, in particular, beach erosion as a result of their geographical layout. They accepted that the resort suffered from beach erosion and said sandbags were used in different areas, including tourist areas, in different quantities and at different times as a way of protecting the resort from the effects of beach erosion.
They said sandbags would be positioned appropriately and then covered with sand so that they were not visible to guests but that tidal movements could uncover them. They said the resort sought to re-cover any that had been revealed, but that during certain periods, sandbags would be visible before it had been possible to re-cover them. They said during July, when the complainant visited, a higher volume of sandbags was in place because of monsoon rains. They said a permanent sea wall was planned in the future and would allow the use of sandbags to be discontinued.
Thomson Tailormade said the images used in the ad were distant or partial shots which would not tend to show a sandbag even if one was exposed.
The ASA considered consumers would understand that the photographs in the ad were a selection that would reflect the hotel and resort in the best possible light and that there might be some instances where the appearance of the resort would differ from the general shots in the brochure. We noted that sandbags were used as a means of dealing with beach erosion in the Maldives and that, at times, they could become uncovered due to tidal movements. We considered, however, that the photographs gave a fair impression of the general appearance of the resort and the beaches. Because of that, we concluded that the ad was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.