14th September 2023 – (Tokyo) Several tourists who rely on online accommodation platforms for booking hotels while travelling abroad often find it convenient to search for hotels and compare prices. However, recent reports from Japan reveal a disturbing trend of “fake hotels” appearing on popular travel websites, leaving unsuspecting guests shocked upon arrival. Instead of the promised luxurious accommodations depicted in the online photos, they encountered dilapidated houses and overgrown weeds—an alarming case of fraud!
According to FNN, a Japanese news outlet, a 19-year-old man made a reservation on the platform “Booking.com” for a hotel in Chiba Prefecture on August 10th. The website boasted of a newly opened hotel that offered amenities such as BBQ facilities, a terrace, and an outdoor bathtub. However, upon reaching the hotel’s address, they discovered it was no luxurious villa but an abandoned residence. Instead of expansive terraces, they were greeted by a garden overrun with weeds.
The deceived man recalled his realisation of falling victim to a scam, desperately hoping that they had simply misunderstood the hotel’s location. However, upon examining the page of the “fake hotel,” reporters noticed unusual Japanese text in the hotel information section, suggesting the use of translation software. Furthermore, no contact details, such as phone numbers, were provided.
On the day of the interview, the “fake hotel” in question was no longer available for booking. Although the man eventually received a full refund of ¥33,000 (approximately HK$1,755) from Booking.com, the overall cost of the trip, including car rentals and other expenses totalling around ¥100,000 (approximately HK$5,320), remained unrecoverable. The review section of the “fake hotel” page revealed comments from other guests stating, “This hotel is a scam.” It appears that besides the 19-year-old man, there were other victims. During FNN’s visit to the address of the “fake hotel,” nearby residents confirmed witnessing around 10 groups of people, unaware that the vacant property had become a hub for fraudulent activities.
Furthermore, the photos used on the “fake hotel” page were stolen from images of an actual villa uploaded on another booking platform. The concerned owners of the real villa expressed their worry, unsure of how many people fell victim to the scam and unable to gauge the extent of the impact this incident would have on them. They have also received inquiries questioning the authenticity of their villa, emphasizing the need for Booking.com to clearly outline the standards for listing accommodation facilities on their website to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
Some Japanese internet users pointed out that operating a hotel or inn requires relevant licenses, which should include the hotel’s name, location, license number, and expiration date. They believe that booking platforms should demand official documentation during the registration process to verify the legitimacy of the accommodation facilities, thereby effectively preventing fraudulent activities.