People perhaps overuse the phrase “tourist trap.” But for some domestic tourists in Japan, a hotel listing on a popular booking Web site was indeed a trap – one that cost them money and, in some cases, ruined their vacations.
The hotel that wasn’t there
FNN Prime Online in Japan relates the story of a 19-year-old man who found a promising-looking hotel via the Website Booking.com for his trip to Chiba Prefecture. The listing said the hotel had just opened this summer. It contained convincing-looking photos of a terrace with BBQs, as well as interior pictures of the rooms.
So the young man headed out for what he assumed would be a pleasant outing in the town of Ichinomiya. Ichinomiya bills itself as a seaside town, with much of its tourist advertising oriented towards surfers or people who want to learn surfing.
Alas, whatever plans the 19-year-old had wouldn’t work out. Because when he got to his hotel, there was nothing but an empty grass lot.
At first, the would-be guest thought he’d just gone to the wrong location. “I didn’t want to accept reality,” he admits. And to be honest, there were warning signs. The entry was written in odd Japanese and there was no phone number listed.
“We’ve seen a lot of people wandering around”
To their credit, Booking.com gave the man back the money he’d spent on his reservation – around 33,000 yen ($224). But he says his vacation was ruined. And he was also out the money he’d spent on a car rental.
He wasn’t the only person taken in, either. Locals told reporters they’ve seen “around 10 or so people” searching in vain for a hotel that never existed.
The scam site’s photos were taken from another, legitimate listing. The owner of the villa pictured in the fraudulent listing says Booking.com has never contacted them about the fraudulent listing. They say that, since this story went public, it’s caused actual customers to call and question the villa’s legitimacy to ensure they’re not getting scammed.
There appears to be no word from Booking.com on how this fake listing ended up on the site or how they plan to prevent it from happening in the future. Booking.com’s Partner Hub contains multiple stories from lodging operators who’ve found themselves the victims of similar scams.
How to avoid getting scammed on your next Japan trip
Such scam listings, of course, aren’t unique to Japan. Sadly, can encounter them anywhere you travel. But the risk increases when you’re traveling to a location where you don’t speak the local language.
One commenter who responded to this story on Yahoo! News gave good advice. When you’re booking a property you haven’t heard of before, cross-check reviews for the location on sites like TripAdvisor. You should also ensure the listing itself looks legitimate; obviously, the lack of any contact info should be a large red flag.
Need help planning a trip to Japan? Let Unseen Japan Tours help! We can help you plan a custom itinerary and serve as an interpretive guide for one or more days of your visit.
What to read next
【独自】人気旅行サイトに偽ホテル掲載… 利用者「許せない・夏休み台無しに…」 実在する貸別荘からの「画像盗用」も判明 所有者「掲載段階でしっかり審査を」. FNN Prime Online