A COUPLE were devastated after they arrived at what they thought would be a luxury hotel – only to find it wasn’t what they were expecting.
Sebastian Alexander, 33, said he endured a “holiday from hell” when he and his wife Amy turned up at their Airbnb hotel in Costa Rica to discover it had been abandoned almost two years prior.
The married couple had forked out more than £1,000 for a 10-day stay at Hotel Casa Blanca in Tamarindo over New Year’s Eve.
But when they arrived at the end of December, they found the hotel was deserted and fenced up.
The Airbnb listing promised blue skies and a palm tree covered beach, but Sebastian claims he was instead confronted by a bleak, abandoned property.
The couple contacted Airbnb but did not hear back for five days, by which time they had already been forced for pay £2,000 on alternative accommodation.
Sebastian, from Hertfordshire, said: “It really was a nightmare. It was one of those holidays from hell situations.
“When we got there, it was all boarded up. It looked pretty run down with the fences up and no foliage outside. It’d just kind of been left there.
“It was literally like a prison camp. You couldn’t get in there, it’d been gutted.
“We looked on [other websites], everywhere, every single property was fully booked. Tamarindo is the place to be for New Year in Costa Rica.
“The only other place we could find was [a large chain hotel] which was £4,700 a night. It was that insane.
“We travel quite a lot and this is our thing. It’s been two years and it was meant to be a nice trip to Costa Rica for three weeks.
“After the experience, I don’t want to use Airbnb ever again.”
On its website, Airbnb advertised a stylish and well-kept hotel with excellent surfing beaches nearby.
The couple couldn’t believe what they were seeing when they were dropped off outside the ‘luxury hotel’.
Sebastian said: “The driver said ‘right, we’re here’ and it was only from looking at the photos and asking the guys next door [that we found it]. We just broke down and were sat in the bar next door.
“We arrived at the boarded up place at about 2pm and we were like ‘s**t, it’s going to get dark in the next two hours’. We needed to sort something out.
“We were sat on the beach and there are crocodiles in Costa Rica. There are big signs everywhere saying ‘be careful – crocodiles’.
“Luckily, the barman next door helped us out. His wife worked at a hotel up the hill and we managed to book somewhere for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for £400 a night.
“We stayed there for two nights then moved down to the other end of the beach to something that was about £1,200 for eight days.
“We were in the restaurant next door and the guys said ‘it’s terrible. As soon as Covid hit, the owners handed the keys back and it’s been vacant ever since’.”
‘HOLIDAY FROM HELL’
The pair said they contacted Airbnb as soon as they discovered the problem, but that they didn’t get any support from the company.
Sebastian said: “We contacted Airbnb and they kept just closing the chats. We pressed the ‘I’m in Distress’ button to try and get some help, but nothing materialised. It said they promised to contact us within the hour.
“We didn’t know where we were going, what we were doing or if we were going to get our money back.
“For 10 days we were just sat there in this really expensive hotel. We’ve had to pay about £1,500 to £2,000 extra that we won’t get back.
“We’re just out of pocket really. We had to book the hotels last minute so had to pay a premium.
“Airbnb’s legal team came back and said ‘due to our terms and conditions we will refund you your stay and give you a token of goodwill for your next stay’ because we didn’t rebook through Airbnb.
“We’re out of pocket by quite a substantial amount of money and are not very happy. You want to rock up on the beach and just relax, but instead we spent days and days moving hotels.”
The couple said Airbnb initially refused to offer any compensation towards the money the couple spent on alternative accommodation, which was higher in price due to the last-minute bookings.
But after being contacted by journalists, Airbnb claimed to have offered ‘reimbursement for additional expenses’ incurred during their stay.
However, when asked if they have any processes in place to check in with hosts to see if properties are still available since the pandemic, Airbnb failed to answer the question and simply said that if guests find a host ‘unresponsive’ on arrival their customer support team is on hand.
A spokesperson for Airbnb said: “Our original handling of this matter fell below the usual high standards we set for ourselves.
“We have reached out to the guest to apologise and offer further support, and have suspended the Host from the platform.
“With more than 1 billion arrivals to date, negative experiences on Airbnb are rare, but where they do happen, we work hard to make things right and our customer service team is on hand 24/7 to help.”
In other Airbnb news, a woman booked accommodation for her friend and was left with a £5,000 bill after they left burnt cushions and dog poo behind.
And a man was left stunned by a ‘tropical’ in Birmingham for £50 a night – only to find it’s just a tent.