An Airbnb customer has told of his ‘holiday from hell’ after finding his hotel was boarded up after its owners ‘abandoned it two years ago’.
Sebastian Alexander from Hereford, Herefordshire, said his ‘luxury’ trip turned into a nightmare when he arrived at the resort that looked ‘like a prison camp’.
The 33-year-old forked out over £1,000 for a 10-day stay at Hotel Casa Blanca in Tamarindo with his wife Amy.
The listing had promised the couple blue skies and a palm tree-covered beach that looked to be a dream trip.
But when they arrived at the end of December the hotel was deserted and boarded up with mesh fencing.
LEFT: Expectations. RIGHT: Reality. Sebastian Alexander from Hereford, Herefordshire, said his ‘luxury’ trip turned into a nightmare when he arrived at the resort that looked ‘like a prison camp’
Mr Alexander, a business owner, said he desperately tried to contact Airbnb but claimed he received no response until five days later.
By then the couple had already been forced to fork out almost £2,000 on alternative accommodation.
He said he was refunded by the company after two weeks but has not been given a reason why the empty property was still on the website.
Airbnb have since apologised and said their ‘original handling of this matter fell below the usual high standards’.
LEFT: Expectations. RIGHT: Reality. The 33-year-old forked out over £1,000 for a 10-day stay at Hotel Casa Blanca in Tamarindo with his wife Amy
Mr Alexander 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.’
Mr Alexander booked the trip on Airbnb after finding what he thought was a ‘great’ hotel, with pictures showed excellent surfing beaches nearby.
But when he and his mental health therapist wife arrived they were confronted by the abandoned accommodation.
He said: ‘We booked the holiday back in October. I found a property on there, thought it looked really good – great price, great location.
‘I received an automated message to say ”your reservation is confirmed”. Even on the app, it says the host’s response time is one hour, which isn’t correct because they’re long gone.
‘They took the money two months ago and we turned up to a closed down hotel.
‘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.’
The listing had promised the couple blue skies and a palm tree-covered beach that looked to be a dream trip. Pictured: Mr and Mrs Alexander
He continued: ‘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.’
Mr Alexander said he was told when coronavirus hit the owners of the abandoned property handed the keys back.
He claimed he contacted Airbnb on the live chat facility but the chats kept closing and they were left without help.
He claimed he got several automated emails from Airbnb about his upcoming stay and questioned why the company have not vetted hotels.
He claimed Airbnb had initially refused to offer compensation for the amount spent on alternative accommodation.
Airbnb said it offered ‘reimbursement for additional expenses’ incurred during their stay.
But the firm would not answer whether there were processes in place to check in with hosts to see if properties are still available since the pandemic.
A spokesman 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.’