A brochure for Kuoni, advertising the Shore Hotel in Phuket, Thailand, seen on 19 April 2017, stated “Offering the ultimate in relaxation, this beautiful boutuqie [sic] resort is a secluded haven”. Alongside the text were four images of the rooms in the property overlooking the sea.
The complainant, who maintained that the hotel was overlooked by other properties and a construction site, challenged whether the claim “secluded haven” was misleading.
Kuoni Travel stated that they would not usually use brochures to communicate building work notifications as it would not be practical to do so. Also, it would be difficult to provide accurate advice on such activity within a printed medium as it could only offer a fair representation at that particular point in time.
They explained that they included a section on building and development work in their booking conditions which were included with their brochures. They also had a number of internal processes that they followed in order to monitor and communicate building work and renovations. This included adding notifications onto their resort information page on their website and including this information in their holiday proposals as well as contacting customers with existing bookings to advise them of building works.
In this instance they had not been informed of the building work that had taken place at the neighbouring property. Once advice was received they took steps to investigate and relocate the complainant in a room located away from the site. While there was no heavy machinery in use, they accepted that it may have been unsightly due to being incomplete. They had since been advised that the work had been completed and that guests had been in situ as of 1 April 2017.
With regards to the description of the resort, they explained that they had sent a copy of the brochure text to the resort management to have their guidance on whether or not it continued to offer a fair representation of the Shore resort, following the expansion of the neighbouring resort. The resort advised that they believed the text was a fair representation.
Kuoni stated that the resort remained secluded in that area of the bay and most of the accommodation was set in a steep bank which also had a high vantage point. They explained that it was also at the far end of the beach which limited passing footfall. They stated that the property itself remained small and intimate in its nature. While terms such as ‘secluded’ were used, Kuoni explained that they did not promote the resort as being wholly isolated. The ad clearly referenced shared use of facilities, suggesting that there was a close proximity to the neighbouring resort.
They also explained that the brochure description of the neighbouring sister resort was on the opposite page to that of the Shore. They said that the advice available for both properties, jointly and in isolation, were befitting for both and in any event they did not consider the proximity of the neighbouring resort to be imposing.
They stated that the description of the resort within their promotional material remained accurate and that the style and location of the Shore resort had not been materially altered as a result of the building work at the neighbouring properties. They stated that new buildings did not appear to have altered the landscape of the properties significantly and they did not advertise that the Shore would not be at all overlooked.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the term ”secluded haven” to mean that the hotel was isolated and was not overlooked or situated near other buildings. We noted from images of the resort featured in the brochure that it was located on a hillside, surrounded by vegetation, and did not appear to show any other properties nearby. We considered that this contributed to the overall impression that the resort was in a secluded area.
We understood that construction work was taking place at a neighbouring resort which was visible to guests staying at the Shore at the time of the complainant’s holiday. While we acknowledged that the building works were temporary, we noted that the hotel was located next to other resorts, and shared facilities with a neighbouring hotel. We also noted that photographs provided by the complainant showed that the neighbouring property overlooked the pool and the complainant’s hotel room. We therefore concluded that the ad’s description of the Shore Hotel as a “secluded haven” was misleading.
The ad breached 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).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Kuoni Travel to ensure that their properties are accurately described in their marketing communications.