The Collapse of Gold Coast Accommodation Providers - Is It Safe To Use ’Faceless’ Website Operators?
The last few weeks has seen the collapse of a number of Gold Coast accommodation providers, leaving thousands holiday makers out of pocket and without holiday accommodation.
One such company was Accommodation 1, which sold the bulk of its accommodation through eBay . The eBay discussion forum has been flooded with comments from holidaymakers, with victims vowing to fight for money lost.
The company was placed in the hands of liquidator Jason Bettles and Ivor Worrell of insolvency firm Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accountant. The company traded through two online portals: the website ourholiday.com.au (which has since been taken down) and through gifts2U.com.au on the auction site eBay Australia. The site focused on Gold Coast apartment blocks such as Circle on Cavill, the Q1 and Chevron Renaissance.
Bettles said 90 landlords at Circle on Cavill, the Q1 and Chevron Renaissance also were hit. On top of the customers who have been caught by the collapse, Bettles says a number of landlords had signed long-term rental agreements with Accommodation 1 and are now owed back rent.
With the collapse of such private accommodation providers, many questions have been raised from concerned holiday makers about the reputation and ethics of private operators. The Gold Coast Bulletin posted comments in May stating, “Consumers using faceless website operators have no way of knowing the financial circumstances or capabilities of the company and are putting their hard-earned money and holiday experiences at risk by using them”.
However, Mr Ashraf Kamha of SunMore Holidays (www.sunmore.com.au) disputes such comments and believes there is no more risk in booking through independent accommodation providers than directly through the big corporations. “It is not just private accommodation providers who go broke. Mega corporations fall over as well,” says Kamha, “we know that it does happen, like it did two years ago when a major travel agency collapsed, leaving thousands of people out of pocket”.
“The private market offers competitive and alternative options for holiday makers. There are literally hundreds of private accommodation providers out there and the vast majority are honest and hard working”.
Kamha says that operators such as Accommodation 1 fail mainly because they do not charge an adequate price for the service they provide, and are therefore forced to cut corners and fail to provide a decent standard of service to customers. It becomes only a matter of time before they enter into the vicious downward spiral of losing customers because of inferior service and having to reduce prices even more just to attract customers.
He believes that the secret of success in the holiday accommodation business is giving customers the service they want for a fair and reasonable price, in the time-frame and in the manner most convenient to them.
In the case of SunMore Holidays, it offers customers the convenience of being able to check availability and pricing of accommodation online in real-time, and to choose and book the actual apartment or holiday home they like online. And they can do that at their convenience and in their own time, without having to wait for someone to respond to their phone call or email enquiry.
Kamha said “We are not embarrassed to say that we’re not the cheapest in the market. We try to offer a service that is reasonably priced in order to allow us to give customers a good standard of service and to give landlords a fair return on their investments”.
With horror stories like Accommodation 1, Kamha believes that private operators need be attuned to customers’ demand for the highest possible level of protection for their hard earned deposit and rental money.
For example, the apartments listed on SunMore Holidays’ website are managed by fully licensed real estate agents who are accredited by the REIQ (Real Estate Institute of Queensland) and appointed to manage the properties and receive the rental money on behalf of their owners.
This provides a higher level of protection for customers’ deposit and rental money, as the law requires licensed agents to bank monies received from all real estate transactions into a trust account that is subject to regular audits.
Therefore, Kamha believes it is not right to tarnish the whole private industry with the poor actions of a few. “We are proud to continue to offer alternative options and a personal service to both holiday makers and property owners alike”.
Indeed, in the wake of the collapse of companies such as Accommodation 1, it has been both the larger and smaller operators that have helped out those people caught in the middle.
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