'I sat there crying': Australian honeymooners let down as HotelQuickly luxury hotel booking cancelled
Australian couple Rochelle Dryden and her husband Ben arrived at the luxury hotel they had booked in South Africa, jet-lagged but "ecstatic" to be on their honeymoon, only to discover their booking had been cancelled 18 hours earlier.
"I honestly sat there crying at one stage because I was so frustrated," she said.
Dryden had booked their December stay at Cape Grace Hotel through HotelQuickly, a booking website based in Hong Kong that has since ceased operating and has been subject to numerous complaints from customers in Australia and overseas.
In December, the NSW Department of Fair Trading received 12 complaints about the company.
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Dryden, from Sydney's northern beaches, said she triple checked with the Cape Grace Hotel before their arrival to see if their booking was alright, as another hotel she booked through HotelQuickly told her their booking had been cancelled.
"They said 'yep we've received your payment it was all fine and good to go'," she said, only to discover the booking was cancelled by the booking website just before they arrived in Cape Town.
While the hotel was able to fit the couple in - at a higher rate - and her credit card company gave her money back, Dryden said it was not a pleasant situation to deal with during her honeymoon.
"We ended up having a fantastic time, it didn't destroy [the honeymoon] for us, but I'm so pissed off with HotelQuickly," she said.
"I don't think anyone else should have to go through this experience."
Jeannie Webster, from Perthshire in Scotland, said she normally books her occasional hotel stays in London with larger booking companies, but for a planned January trip found HotelQuickly advertising a cheaper rate. After receiving a confirmation email, she said she thought no more about it until they arrived at the Lancaster Gate Hotel.
"Imagine our disappointment and disbelief when we arrived at the hotel to be told our booking had been cancelled," she said.
The hotel was able to accommodate them, for an extra £40 (NZ$76), and the "extremely helpful" receptionist informed her they were not the only ones who had been scammed by the company.
Webster, a retiree, said her credit card company had refunded her the original amount but were still pursuing HotelQuickly.
"[They] have advised me that they may not be able to obtain the money and may yet have to take mine back," she said.
"It is so difficult to know how we stand legally."
While the rest of her and her husband Jim's trip to London was "most enjoyable", Webster said she wished she had also done more research on HotelQuickly.
"I have advised my friends not to touch them with a barge pole," she said.
Both Webster and Dryden both used HotelQuickly after they saw deals advertised on TripAdvisor.
A TripAdvisor spokeswoman said the website took "swift action" to suspend HotelQuickly's business once the company knew there were problems.
"HotelQuickly is a site that had been in operation since 2012 and was backed by credible financiers with experience in the travel sector," the spokeswoman said in a statement.
"There is an onboarding process that every supplier must comply with in order to display prices and availability on TripAdvisor.
"When HotelQuickly's financial and operational issues came to light, we took swift action to suspend their business from our site."
HotelQuickly's shuttered website states the company has ceased operating.
"We deeply apologize for any inconvenience caused during this unfortunate period," the website says, directing any affected customers to contact them via their support email.
However, Webster said she has received the same standard response from HotelQuickly each time she has emailed, with "nothing positive forthcoming".
Dryden, who works in marketing, said she and her husband were not first-time travellers and she had done plenty of research before the trip, which made the booking cancellation all the more frustrating.
"It's hard, no matter what sometimes you unfortunately get put in these positions where you get stung, and thank god with my credit card and my bank they helped me get my money back," she said.
"My biggest advice would be to make sure you research any of the third-party companies that aren't well known, to triple check who you're booking through, and if you can book direct with the hotel."
Sydney Morning Herald