‘How roadworks and diversions ruined our Italian holiday’

A couple of British pensioners said their New Year holiday was “ruined” after they got lost in an Italian town and were unable to find their hotel due to traffic and roadworks.

'How roadworks and diversions ruined our Italian holiday'
The town of Ventimiglia, Italy. Photo: DepositPhotos

Steve and Elaine Ward, who are from London and now live in France, had planned a three-day trip to the scenic coastal town of Ventimiglia, Liguria over the Christmas and New Year break.

But when they got there, they said a combination of heavy traffic, roadworks and diversions in the town made it “impossible” for them to find their hotel.

Now they say they stand to lose €350 for the three-night stay because neither the hotel nor hotel giant will refund them.

READ ALSO: Italian town bans use of Google Maps after 'too many' people get lost

“We arrived late on Boxing Day night. We’d spent Christmas in Nice with our grandson, our son, and his wife,” Stephen Ward told The Local. “We’d booked the Sole Mare for three nights after, from the 26th to the 29th.”

“When we got there it was just impossible to find the place,” he said.

“There were road blocks and diversions all over the place. We drove round and round and round for over an hour on the night of the 26th and again for around an hour the next morning. It was impossible.”

The old town of Ventimiglia, where the hotel is located, is set on a hill overlooking the sea, accessed by winding, narrow roads.

“We called on the 26th night and again on the 27th morning. On the 26th they said the room had been cancelled for all three nights,” Stephen said.

“But when we phoned the next morning, we were told we’d have to pay despite the night manager having assured us the booking had been cancelled,” he said.

'Devastated': Stephen and Elaine Ward had been looking forward to three days in Liguria, Italy.

“We even tried to find it again on the 27th during the daytime but the traffic was choc-a-block with roads and paths blocked off due to roadworks.”

He said the hotel “admitted they should have given us a map but they still refused point blank to give us a refund” and that a conversation with a hotel employee on the phone descended into “a shouting match”.

“We had really been looking forward to going. We tried so hard. We were devastated that we couldn’t find it and it put a real downer on our Christmas and New Years celebration,” he said.

“We’ve never been to that area of Italy before and had high hopes. Now I don’t know if we’ll ever go again.”

He said the booking platform too gave them “short shrift” when they got in touch.

“It wasn’t our fault we couldn’t find the place.”

“€350 is a lot of money for us and an amount we can ill afford,” he said. “We will never use again. They have ruined our New Year.”

“We can't believe this nightmare.”

READ ALSO: Ripped off: Italy's worst tourist scams and how to avoid them

In an email sent to the Wards seen by The Local, said it had called the hotel's secretary, who “declined a free cancellation, as the booking was made on non-refundable policy and they found themselves to be not responsible for the traffic.”

“By making a reservation through, you enter into a direct (legally binding) contractual relationship with the accommodation. We act as an intermediary between you and the provider.”

“ is not the facilitator of the payment in this situation.”

In a statement, the director of Hotel Sole Mare told The Local that hotel staff had “suggested an alternative route” at the time and that “as a gesture of goodwill the management decided to reimburse the customer € 114.00 for the cost of the first night.”

Ventimiglia, Liguria. Photo: Depositphotos

Member comments

  1. Excuse me; it was not YOUR fault you could not find the hotel? Sorry, but if I were lost on my way to a hotel, I would call the hotel and ask for directions. And I would not drive around all day trying to find it. Are we to assume that no other guests found the hotel that day as well? I think not! NO one ruined your vacation, but you, so stop whining and trying to renege on the agreement you entered into with and the hotel. It was your incompetence that prevented you from getting there and no one else’s.

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Why are fewer British tourists visiting Spain this year?

Almost 800,000 fewer UK holidaymakers have visited Spain in 2023 when compared to 2019. What’s behind this big drop?

Why are fewer British tourists visiting Spain this year?

Spain welcomed 12.2 million UK tourists between January and July 2023, 6 percent less when compared to the same period in 2019, according to data released on Monday by Spanish tourism association Turespaña.

This represents a decrease of 793,260 British holidaymakers for Spain so far this year.

Conversely, the number of Italian (+8 percent), Irish (+15.3 percent), Portuguese (+24.8 percent), Dutch (+4 percent) and French tourists (+5 percent) visiting España in 2023 are all above the rates in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. 

German holidaymakers are together with their British counterparts the two main nationalities showing less interest in coming to Spanish shores.

Britons still represent the biggest tourist group that comes to Spain, but it’s undergoing a slump, with another recent study by Caixabank Research suggesting numbers fell particularly in June 2023 (-12.5 percent of the usual rate). 

READ ALSO: Spain fully booked for summer despite most expensive holiday prices ever

So are some Britons falling out of love with Spain? Are there clear reasons why a holiday on the Spanish coast is on fewer British holiday itineraries?

According to Caixabank Research’s report, the main reasons are “the poor macroeconomic performance of the United Kingdom, the sharp rise in rates and the weakness of the pound”.

This is evidenced in the results of a survey by British market research company Savanta, which found that one in six Britons are not going on a summer holiday this year due to the UK’s cost-of-living crisis.

Practically everything, everywhere has become more expensive, and that includes holidays in Spain: hotel stays are up 44 percent, eating out is 13 percent pricier, and flights are 40 percent more on average. 

READ ALSO: How much more expensive is it to holiday in Spain this summer?

Caixabank stressed that another reason for the drop in British holidaymakers heading to Spain is that those who can afford a holiday abroad are choosing “more competitive markets” such as Turkey, Greece and Portugal. 

And there’s no doubt that the insufferably hot summer that Spain is having, with four heatwaves so far, has also dissuaded many holidaymakers from Blighty from overcooking in the Spanish sun. 

With headlines such as “This area of Spain could become too hot for tourists” or “tourists say it’s too hot to see any sights” featuring in the UK press, budding British holidaymakers are all too aware of the suffocating weather conditions Spain and other Mediterranean countries are enduring. 

Other UK outlets have urged travellers to try out the cooler Spanish north rather than the usual piping hot Costa Blanca and Costa del Sol destinations.

Another UK poll by InsureandGo found that 71 percent of the 2,000+ British respondents thought that parts of Europe such as Spain, Greece and Turkey will be too hot to visit over summer by 2027.

There’s further concern that the introduction in 2024 of the new (and delayed) ETIAS visa for non-EU visitors, which of course now also applies to UK nationals, could further compel British tourists to choose countries to holiday in rather than Spain.

READ MORE: Will British tourists need to pay for a visa waiver to enter Spain?

However, a drop in the number of British holidaymakers may not be all that bad for Spain, even though they did spend over €17 billion on their Spanish vacations in 2022. 

Towns, cities and islands across the country have been grappling with the problem of overtourism and the consequences it has on everything from quality of life for locals to rent prices. 

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The overcrowded nature of Spain’s beaches and most beautiful holiday hotspots appears to be one of the reasons why Germans are visiting Spain in far fewer numbers. A recent report in the country’s most read magazine Stern asked “if the dream is over” in their beloved Mallorca.

Spanish authorities are also seeking to overhaul the cheaper holiday package-driven model that dominates many resorts, which includes moving away from the boozy antics of young British and other European revellers.

Fewer tourists who spend more are what Spain is theoretically now looking for, and the rise in American, Japanese and European tourists other than Brits signify less of a dependence on the British market, one which tends to maintain the country’s tourism status quo for better or for worse.