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Is it right on the beach?

A small question, with big consequences.

It's asked millions of times each year, and still beach-lovers get caught. They find themselves dodging traffic to get to the beach from the hotel that billed itself as 'right by the beach' or 'just a few steps from the sand', while its website deliberately failed to include a photo of the road right in front.

For families with young kids and older folks who are not prepared to fight traffic, crossing roads can become a major holiday upset, sometimes adding danger where there should be none. For couples who dreamed of stepping out of their room onto the sand, in swimsuits, being fooled by the omissions and misleading advertising of hotels can be aggravating and angering.

When holiday-makers travel half way around the world to find an ideal beach, the 'really on the beach' question soars in importance. Who wants to cough up global airfares then find they are sleeping with the noise of traffic instead of waves?

The solution offered by True Beachfront website is simple and sure. Using the latest hi-tech mapping techniques, this site answers that question for once and for all. This specialized hotel club has meticulously mapped every beachfront hotel it can find along the beaches of 106 countries spanning the planet. With amazingly detail, each beachfront hotel they qualify is displayed by its own boundaries, showing size and shape of the establishment as well as its on-the-beach location. And if one wants to see the 'real' beach and location, just toggle the satellite image from below. All doubts about these 'qualified' hotels being true beachfront are gone.

This new-style hotel club accepts all establishments facing a beach or oceanfront, be they budget backpacker bungalows or fancy 5-star resorts. 'True beachfront' is the only criteria. In Thailand, one of the 'hot' beachfront destinations of the world, hundreds of small bungalows under US$30 a night can be found quickly on the remotest islands. In the Caribbean and Egypt the site maps the huge resorts in detail not seen before. In Africa you can check out all of the true beachfront resorts in Zanzibar and compare with those in neighbouring Kenya.

Perhaps most valuable is what True Beachfront does not show; it has cut out all of those hotels whose rooms don't open directly onto the beach or waterfront. Here you can go hunting for a true beachfront hotel with no fear of being duped by misleading advertising.

Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and the Philippines – the starting point for this site – also have detailed beach guides with unprecedented maps, photos, info and videos that help build a profile for each beach. They also help give credence to the owners claim to be building the world's most complete and passionate on-line resource about the beaches of the world.


simple new 'true beachfront' hotel finder will put you right on the beach, quickly, anywhere in the world

Want to find a beachfront hotel anyplace in the world with no fear what-so-ever of ending up across a highway, or having share your route to the beach with traffic? This new website has taken the work out of finding true beachfront hotels. And the worry about getting duped. Those hotels near a beach, but not right on it, have been completely eliminated, leaving only the dreamed-of variety on their detailed maps.

All qualified hotels are mapped in a way not seen before, with the boundaries of each hotel drawn to display the shape, size and exact location of each - always on the beach or waterfront.

When you see this level of detail you will believe that the hotels they 'qualify' are the real thing... right on the beach. The satellite image of each location lies beneath, adding credibility. Their coverage of the globe is thorough, and while they don't claim to have found all of the true beachfront hotels of the world, the more than 8,000 they do have include virtually all of the obvious ones, and lots more hidden and hard-to-find ones as well.

Don't be fooled by misleading advertising again

hotels claiming to be 'beachfront' often aren't - but we don't know until we arrive

So many beach-lovers have booked a beachfront hotel and flown off with dreams of waking up to the sound of waves rolling up the beach – only to find they were sleeping with the sound of traffic. The beach? Cross a road or two, dodge some traffic to get there. Millions have been fooled this way by the omissions and misleading advertising of hotels. This problem is now overcome by a few clicks on the mouse, thanks to new technology. True Beachfront has meticulously mapped every (or nearly every) 'true beachfront' hotel on the planet, offering an almost indisputable guarantee of finding you accommodations directly on any beach you choose.

'True beachfront' is defined by this new-look hotel club as accommodations that have absolutely no roads nor motorised traffic between their rooms and the beach or water. Non-beachfront hotels that have misled guests in the past with fancy advertising, or by refusing to show the roads in front, are now getting their payback - no amount of fancy wording will get them onto this club's carefully checked maps.

These maps outline each qualified hotel by its boundaries, displaying the size, shape and precise location of each. The satellite image beneath provides the final proof of location. Hotels that have any motor traffic, even motorcycles, between their rooms and the beach are disqualified, and are not shown. All 8,000+ hotels displayed on are thus guaranteed to be absolutely beachfront. The site has over 1,800 beach maps in 106 countries.

Because their qualifications are strictly geographic, this is surely the most democratic of all on-line hotel clubs. Members range from budget bungalows in the remote islands of Thailand to glitzy, 5-star resorts in the Caribbean and The Med. Perhaps the most important aspect of this site is what it does not show – hotels that claim to be 'on the beach', but aren't.

In addition to its focus on beach hotels and resorts, True Beachfront brings a detailed eye to the beaches themselves. It recently added Beach Ratings and a Romance Scale to help build a profile for each beach. It opened a Brief Environmental Rating that it says will grow into an environment awareness campaign for beaches worldwide.

In Southeast Asia the site offers beach travel guides with a level of detail never seen before. Thailand and Myanmar have recently seen the addition of video to the guides. True Beachfront is billing itself as the beginning of the world's most comprehensives 'beaches' website and on-line resource.

travel industry

New tool can make travel agents 'true beachfront' experts

When a hotel billing itself as 'beachfront' fails to deliver a right-on-the-beach location it can be a cause of disappointment and conflict.

Now there is a precise, hi-tech web tool to turn every travel agent into an expert on all 'true beachfront' hotels of the world. With a few clicks, agents can now tell beach-lovers exactly which hotels are true beachfront, quickly, easily and confidently – and which hotels require crossing roads and voiding traffic.

The website, True Beachfront, has set itself the goal of becoming the global authority on beaches, and has mapped over 8,000 'true beachfront' hotels into its site. To gain certification, a hotel must have no road nor traffic between its rooms and the beach. Every hotel is mapped by its boundaries to display exact shape, size and its beach location. A satellite map below provides the final touch of authenticity.

Geography rules the qualifications here, not star rating. Thus small budget establishments are qualified alongside 5-star resorts – both are true beachfront. Finding budget rooms for young families on Thailand's remote islands, or backpacker bungalows in Myanmar, is as easy as locating a large 4-star retreat in the Caribbean or the Med.

Hotels that fail True Beachfront's strict criteria – even a small road with traffic will do it – are locked out of the site. Thus, thousands of hotels that call themselves 'beachfront' or 'Beach Resort', but are not really on a beach, are exposed and left out in the cold. The once-difficult task of confidently locating a true beachfront hotel on the other side of planet is now a simple, speedy task – just a few clicks away.

Do 'beachfront' hotels really mislead their guests?

It was about 1991, but it might have happened yesterday - and it will surely happen again tomorrow. I was in a boat, some 500 metres offshore in Patong Bay, Phuket with a 500mm lens - that's one long, long telephoto lens. When I focused on the Phuket Palace, a brand new, high-rise apartment-hotel situated an even greater distance back from the beach, the telephoto effect sandwiched everything in view. Suddenly the beach, trees and towering building were flattened. The 700 metres from beach to building virtually disappeared in the images that I clicked. The high-rise appeared to be parked in the trees right at the back of the beach.

Those disappearing 700 metres in my photo came to cause grief and financial loss for many people in the following years, it turned out. That photo ended up in a court of law, used as evidence in bitter legal disputes as evidence of the developer's calculated intent to deceive.

After shooting and delivering the image to the delighted developer he then placed it prominently in his advertising on the back cover of PHUKET Magazine, a high-end tourism publication of which I was the publisher. Though I was both the photographer of the image and the publisher of the magazine helping to sell this out-of-place high-rise as 'beachfront', I did not think it was such a big deal at the time. And, I believe, I pushed aside the publisher's eternal struggle between money and conscience with simplistic justifications, telling myself that 'people would not really be fooled.'

Yet many were fooled, and the developer ended up in that bitter court struggle, lost it, and fled Thailand forever. My photo that 'lost' the 700 metres between reality and magazine, first helped him make duplicitous sales then later helped convict him of intended fraud.

Did it make me think? Certainly. Perhaps that was the very first seed of an idea that would one day sprout and grow into True Beachfront.

Patong Beach had many more lessons of the 'beachfront' kind. Do reputable, 'brand' hotels selling rooms to innocent tourists from afar employ similar, misleading tactics?

A little later, about 1993, I was down on Patong Beach once again with my camera, shooting brochure photos for a well-known 'beachfront' hotel. I was setting up the desired beach-to-hotel shot, under the direction of the hotel manager. He was directing, moving cars and motorcycles off the road in front of his hotel. Everyone who has been to this famous resort beach knows that a very busy road cuts a prominent swathe between beach and the hotels here.

Without a vehicle in view, and me on the beach just below road level, my camera saw beach, trees and hotel. The road had effectively disappeared. Click. Again, the perfect shot. The hotel manager was so pleased with this 'roadless' shot of his 'beachfront' hotel that it remained prominent on the hotel's brochures for many years. Did a photo of the road ever make it into that hotel's brochure? Never. While writing this I did a quick check of the same hotel's website; among over 30 photos of the hotel not one gives even a hint that a major road separates hotel and beach. Is omission also a form of deception?

It matters little that I cannot mention the name of this particular hotel, because most along both Patong's and Karon's beach roads employ the same tactics of omission. But does omitting all references to a busy, noisy road between a hotel and the beach constitute 'misleading advertising'. Many of those who get fooled by it believe it is misleading or worse. During 20 years of publishing magazines in Phuket I heard uncountable complaints from disappointed, sometimes angry, tourists, about it. More seeds for True Beachfront.

Perhaps my being a founder of True Beachfront is a way for me to expunge my subconscious guilt and complicity in this unfair game? I know that my 1991 photograph that lost 700 metres caused others serious financial loss and distress. I'll never know how much disappointment my photo of that Patong hotel 'right on the beach' caused. And I did many other shots like it for other hotels. It is standard practice for hotel managers to instruct the photographer to hide or cut out the ugly and unwanted, or when that is not sufficient, to 'Photoshop' the images to take out ugly street wires, neighbouring buildings and more. Yet the most common retouch of all is to replace the murky water at a dull beach with the turquoise stuff from Tahiti or paradise.

While I no longer do hotel photo shoots, a quick glance through hotel websites shows that the retouching business is alive and brighter than ever; as is the sly habit of omission, as is the liberal use of the word 'beachfront' by hotels that are on the wrong side of a road, or worse. True Beachfront promises to help millions of people avoid the many pitfalls in discovering true beachfront hotels. I'm hoping it will be many times more than the number of people my photographs may have once helped dupe.

by John Everingham,
founder, True Beachfront

hotel industry

New-style hotel club arrives, kicking tradition

A new hotel club has sprung up on a web horizon already crowded with hotel clubs - but this one arrives kicking sand in the face of tradition, and is packed with new ideas and technology.

The first thing this newcomer does is kick snob-value – traditionally the driving force of hotel clubs – square in the face. This lines up, side-by-side, hotels from budget bungalows to 5-star deluxe resorts in a manner previously unimagined.

In True Beachfront, geography rules. To qualify as 'true beachfront' a hotel must have direct access to the beach or waterfront, with no road or traffic in between. Within these criteria, membership is granted regardless of a hotel's size or class.

The latest mapping technology allows this site to introduce new levels of detail, displaying hotels as never seen before. Each qualified member hotel is mapped by its own boundaries, displaying the exact shape, size and location of each, while eliminating all that requires their guests to cross a road.

Here lies the marketing secret that allows this club to bring all classes of accommodation together: 'true beachfront' as defined here is in direct sync with the aspirations of hundreds of millions of beach holiday-makers. People don't like roads between their rooms and the water. And for hotels that do qualify, 'beachfront' is one of their core marketing tools. They can't afford to be left out with the pretenders or miss the unique opportunity of third-party endorsement of their beach location. Luxury 5-star resorts thus don't object to being lined up in an exclusive club alongside their cheap little neighbours.

For hotels that currently rely on beach goers, but do not pass the 'no traffic' qualifications, this is not such good news. It probably signals a loss of business as beach-lovers move to 'qualified' hotels where they can sleep to the sound of waves, not traffic.

Is your hotel beachfront? really beachfront?

The website of True Beachfront has drawn a line down the beaches of the world, segregating beach hotels into two distinct groups, 'true beachfront' and 'disqualified'.

Can your guests walk out of their rooms directly onto the sand or waterfront? If not, your hotel might be in for a kind of 'deregistering by a website that is becoming the global authority on 'true beachfront' hotels of the world.

To qualify as 'true beachfront' a hotel must have neither road nor motorised traffic between its guest rooms and the beach. It may sit on a waterfront or headland, allowing guests to gaze out over the watery horizon, though, so long as it passes the 'no traffic' rule.

The core of this site are beach maps covering 106 countries and presenting individual hotels in detail not seen before. Each hotel is mapped by its own boundaries, displaying the size, shape and exact beach or waterfront position. This, with a satellite image below, leaves no room for doubt about beachfront qualifications.

As ever more beach-lovers discover this fast and easy tool, the segregation of beach hotels is going to give the 'qualified' members a huge advantage. The 'pretenders', hotels across roads, or 'just a few steps from the beach', are not going to be seen here. Booking traffic is sure to flow closer to the sand, away from pretending beach hotels into their certified beachfront neighbours. That is, after all, where guests a beach vacation really want to be.

Catch direct customers with new marketing technology...

(but only 'true' beachfront hotels need apply)

Not all hotels want more direct bookings from customers. Recently an owner in Kamala Beach, Phuket, said 'It's much better for me to pay the booking services their 15%. Then I can go to the golf course'. However, experience talking to dozens of hoteliers suggests this is definitely a minority view. Most hotels continue to upgrade their web skills - many by engaging SEO and viral marketing experts etc. . to use the internet more effectively in the hope of increasing direct bookings.

That, however, is still a complex path fraught with obstacles. As soon as technology promises hotels more opportunities on the direct-client path, the middlemen find new ways to jump in between. Booking engines exploit the difficulty the user faces in looking up multiple websites to check a few individual hotels, or even finding those hotels' websites.

One hi-tech newcomer to the web world is offering member hotels both new marketing channels and a route for them to make direct contact with clients... but only 'true beachfront' hotels need apply here.

The new, hi-tech website of True Beachfront has identified all 'true beachfront' hotels around the world, offering them free membership in this highly-interactive club. To qualify a hotel must have no road nor motorised traffic of any kind between its rooms and the beach or waterfront, thus cutting out all hotels across roads, or those pretending to be right on the beach. Membership is conditional on geography alone, allowing hotels of all classes to join - so long as they are 'true beachfront'. Their detailed maps show qualified hotels by their borders, shape and size - all details that confirm the hotels' beachfront status in a precise manner not seen before.

Breaking another common standard, this hotel club is not a booking engine. It will affiliate with the standard booking services like Agoda, Expedia and and direct traffic through those. Yet it also offers its members the chance to catch more direct bookings. The Standard Members (read free) get a live link from a Contact page in the mini website that each member is provided within the Club.

Direct bookings become very easy, however, when a hotel upgrades to the club's Premium level. This requires a monthly fee, running at around US$200 per month in an up-market resort destination. Premium Members get a high-profile direct link to their booking system accessible from all hotel pages. When users click through and make direct bookings the Club collects no commission.

While it sounds good, the success of this, from the hotels' point of view, will rest with the site's ability to generate public interest, something its creators believe it can do because the 'true beachfront' qualifications are in line with real aspirations of millions of beach-lovers. With good traffic, the qualified hotels will be able to justify the monthly fee with the commissions saved from a few direct bookings - and beyond that they can look for both savings and more personal relationships and direct bookings.