Carolin Helbig a tourist from Germany arrived in Seychelles for her first long-haul holiday. She reported that she booked her 16-day holiday in Seychelles with Booking.Com. Carolin Helbig’s Booking.Com successful reservations allowed her to discover the islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue.
Because her holiday was perfect, she decided to extend her stay in paradise by a further 7 nights. She alleged that Booking.Com could not find an appropriate hotel for her because Seychelles was in its peak period and enjoying very high occupancy level.
This is when disaster struck for Carolin Helbig with her Seychelles holiday.
She reported that she then turned to Airbnb, which was able to book her accommodation in the district of Port Glaud for seven nights. She paid the asking rate and the booking was dutifully confirmed. On the 21st December, a representative from the Airbnb booked hotel turned up at Julie’s Holiday Home at Au Cap to pick up Carolin and transfer her to her new accommodation on the Port Glaud / Sans Soucis Road.
The vehicle providing the transfer was apparently not a licensed Taxi, instead belonging to a nephew of the family owning the Airbnb booked accommodation. The German traveller reported that the vehicle was in a bad state and that the engine ‘choked’ often during their drive to the dwelling.
After leaving the main Port Glaud / Sans Soucis Road, the driver apparently took a winding, small road in a dark and what felt like an unsafe surrounding for Carolin.
On arrival at the destination, Carolin was guided to a small side annex to the main house, where she was to share the place with the mother of the establishment’s owner, as well as two young children, one of whom appeared to be in ill health. Carolin was expected to share the bathroom and toilet facilities with the other occupants. However, she reported that the bathroom was in a dire condition, consisting of a mere shower pipe attached to an unplastered wall. She complained that the water pressure was so poor that the water trickled down as she attempted to wash her hands. Her sleeping quarters were humble, at best.
As darkness fell, she realized that her mobile phone was not receiving proper coverage. She was offered to share a meal (moringa leaves and fried fish) with the lady of the house and the two young girls.
Carolin felt unsafe and walked outside in darkness until she managed to get a mobile phone signal. She dialed Barry and Julie Laporte at Julie’s Holiday Home. Speaking in a low voice so as not to be heard, Carolin said to Julie Laporte:- “Come and get me, I am scared”. That was barely two hours after she has checked out of the Au Cap Tourism Establishment.
Carolin allegedly told the Airbnb booked hotel representative that she would walk to the main road, but was discouraged to do so because of the dogs in the area.
Barry and Julie Laporte drove from Au Cap to Port Glaud and, after a lot of difficulties, saw Carolin with her suitcase holding her phone trying to attract attention in total darkness.
Carolin has tried to claim back from Airbnb for the amount paid for the seven days at the Port Glaud Hotel but she reports that she has thus far been unsuccessful in her endeavor.
The author of this story is Alain St.Ange former minister of tourism for the Seychelles. He added:- Carolin Helbig was devastated by the ordeal and wanted to speak to someone to tell her story. I was contacted by the owners of Julie’s Holiday Home and drove to meet her on the day of her departure from Seychelles. The Seychelles Ministry of Tourism may be advised to follow up with Carolin Helbig and help her get back what she paid for hotel accommodation that was not used because Seychelles cannot afford disgruntled tourists reporting back to their friends, family, and their local media about their unfortunate experiences on our shores. Importantly, there is a duty to ascertain whether Airbnb is using licensed accommodation establishments in Seychelles, for the protection of our tourists. This incident is what can destroy all the good work done by those who are investing to make Seychelles tourism work. My thanks go to Barry and Julie Laporte of Julie’s Holiday Home for ‘saving’ Carolin Helbig from her ordeal and ensuring her last days in Seychelles was what she had flown to the tropics for.