Cape Town - Finding suitable accommodation for your holiday can be stressful, but the thought of relaxing at your getaway after the planning and payment is done makes the temporary stress worthwhile.
However, there's nothing worse than reaching your holiday accommodation to find an unusable toilet, no electricity, lack of basic amenities and all-round poor service.
With the abundance of accommodation options available online - including private bed and breakfasts, guesthouses and lodges - it's difficult to confirm which are legit, honest in their descriptions and safe. This brings to light the importance of industry regulations and standards.
SEE: New hospitality data grading to raise the benchmark of SA's tourism offering
For one the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa (TGCSA) establishes a "recognisable and credible globally benchmarked system of quality assurance" for accommodation, spaces for meetings, exhibitions and special events - even camping sites, with online reviews also taken into account for a cohesive reflection of what the properties are really like.
"If it bears our TGCSA star plaque and certificate, you can expect outstanding quality and service excellence," says the grading council, adding a quick “seaarch on Graded Establishments on its site adds piece of mind.
Similarly, share-accommodation sites like Airbnb also have strict codes of conduct that hosts need to adhere to before being accepted.
SEE: Cape Town Airbnb hosts must adhere to municipal by-law and zone restrictions
Proof of how professionalism can slip when not held to any industry standard is the recent accommodation nightmare shared by Renee Fortune with Traveller24 as she states that hospitality and service was lacking from the point of arrival.
The group of five were attending an event in Magaliesburg, Gauteng, and decided to spend the weekend away together. They booked accommodation online for a stay at Once Upon A Time @Goblins Cove, at R450 per person per night, including breakfast.
While the establishment's website describes it as "an escape from the world" where "possibilities are endless", Fortune describes its hospitality as "unprofessional" and shared a lengthy list of complaints regarding their entire stay.
NOTE: Share your travel experiences with us. Email info@Traveller24.com or tweet us@Traveller24_SA.
'Caked with human faecese and jungle gunk'
“When we got there, we were given mugs with coffee and 16 sachets of sugar but only one room had a functioning kettle. That's as far as the hospitality went,” says Fortune.
Her list of grievances includes the toilet in her room being so “filthy that the pan of the toilet was stuck to the lid and had to be wrenched apart”, as well as the toilet not functioning upon their arrival with the option to use toilets outside the venue “which were absolutely caked with human faecese and jungle gunk”, coupled with numerous other unhygienic conditions in the bathroom.
“At 2am my boyfriend had to walk into a dark forest to use the toilet outside,” she says.
(Photo: Renee Fortune)
'Dried up snake in toilet sink'
Fortune says that they also “did not have any hot water for the duration of our stay” (which was over one night), only one of their rooms had “a proper duvet” while the others had “one thin blanket each” and only one “functioning heater” which she says “was brought to us as a concession after we complained”.
In addition, one of the room windows was cracked and did not have curtains." Her other complaints included having “no lights when we got there”, as well as a damp, mouldy smell in the cabin and in one of the spare toilet sinks “there was something that resembled a dried-up snake”.
(Photo: Renee Fortune)
“When we complained we were told that that bathroom was not supposed to be in use," Fortune told Traveller24.
Fortune says that they had booked their accommodation in April so the owner “should have been prepared for us”.
“We kept being told that things would get fixed but we waited and the lights did not get fixed, the water did not start running in the toilet and the water did not heat up in the shower.”
“When my boyfriend came out of an attempted shower, complaining about having no hot water, Jaco, the owner, joked and asked him: "Are you awake now?"”
What the owner had to say
Traveller24 contacted Jaco Erasmus to find out why Fortune experienced such appalling conditions at the guesthouse. He denied some of the claims made by Fortune, saying that there was hot water and electricity. “We’ve never had a problem with electricity,” says Erasmus.
Regarding the heaters, he said that he knew it would get cold at night in the area and offered each room a heater. He said that he “put a heater in front of each cabin” and asked them if they wanted a heater, as well as if they wanted their rooms cleaned. He told Traveller24 that they denied these offers.
SEE: Report falsely-graded establishments - TGCSA
According to Fortune, they were told that “only one of the cabins was in liveable condition”.
“When asked why he allowed us to book, he had no reasonable answer. He told us we should be grateful for the current condition of the place because he had recently brought the property and the previous owners had left it in an unmanageable condition,” says Fortune.
Fortunes says that the owner also told them “to be grateful that the carpets had been cleaned because there was a tick and flea infestation previously”, there was no lighted path outside so they needed to use their phone lights at night “to avoid being bitten by snakes”.
This highlights the importance of checking if the accommodation you book has these amenities and little features that we often take for granted, and that make a difference in creating a pleasant stay.
She also says that they were not given keys for their doors and “people could have walked in and stolen anything from our suitcases at any time”. “We were alone in the middle of nowhere with no locked doors,” says Fortune. However, Erasmus told Traveller24 that they fetched a key from him personally and “they had a key at all points in time”.
Request for refund and 'death threats'
Erasmus told Traveller24 that while his guests were "unhappy about everything", one of the group members still stayed for two nights and had breakfast.
Fortune explains that all of them had to stay the first night as they could not find alternative accommodation at such short notice, while her friend Keith remained for a second night “because he didn't book an alternative in time”.
She says that Erasmus offered them a refund initially but later realised that he was not at all "readily willing" to provide a refund. In the end, they received a 50% refund while Keith requested a full refund and was faced with “death threats” from the owner.
“After that, Keith did not call back. He has since opened a case up at the police station,” Fortune told Traveller24. Erasmus has not yet responded to Traveller24 about these allegations.
ALSO SEE: Airbnb signs Africa's first city agreement with Cape Town
To avoid nasty experiences that leave you with bad memories and a lower bank balance, it is imperative that holidaymakers check the grading of various accommodation options before settling on a place to stay.
And while the internet can be overwhelming with a myriad of options and fake news, it can also be helpful with reviews and various social platforms that will provide information that can assist accommodation seekers. One needs to take the time to do proper research and check with various sources and grading councils before finalising a booking.
NOTE: Share your travel experiences with us. Email info@Traveller24.com or tweet us @Traveller24_SA.
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