Don’t be fooled by stars when booking your holiday!

Don't be fooled by the stars when booking your holiday
By Deshini Harry

16 November 2021

As the holiday season approaches we are all in the festive mood planning our holiday breaks after a long yet productive year.

Every year without fail I would book my tickets to Europe to enjoy the beautiful Christmas Markets but since the pandemic I had to start looking for local getaways and I must say I was pleasantly surprised and sometimes (well one instance to be exact) not pleasantly surprised.

Your holiday starts from the minute you start googling, making enquiries, confirming your bookings, travelling there and finally being at your destination. So 90% of your experience is when you have not yet reached your destination. It is a begin to end experience and how you feel during and after is what matters most. The only reason we even go on holidays is to rejuvenate, escape and come back happier and more fulfilled.

While planning a road trip from Pretoria to Durban and back (which I will share in seperate posts), I came across the kindest people who made the booking experience so pleasant but I also encountered a grinch who stole my holiday spirit.

Booking dinner on the beach in a small 4 star beachfront guesthouse in KwaZulu-Natal turned into an absolute nightmare. So much so that I had to cancel my booking as the general manager….well, she lost the plot! Moreover, I discovered that this guesthouse is owned by a company whose main focus is not in the hospitality industry. So yes, my complaints obviously fell on deaf ears.

What I have taken away from this awful encounter is that you need to focus on establishments as a whole, the people who work there and book with companies that have experience in the hospitality industry namely Tsogo Sun, Gooderson Leisure, First Group SA, The Leading Hotels of the World Group and guesthouses that are run by people who live and breathe hospitality.

My mistake was looking for a luxury hidden gem and was fooled by the views and the stars. So do your homework especially when it comes to smaller establishments in small cities to avoid having your holiday ruined before it even gets started.

The stars that establishments receive from TGCSA (Tourism Grading Council of South Africa) are based on their structure, location, facilities and also the service. Going to a 4 or 5 star establishment doesn’t always mean you will get that level of service especially if they are not in the hospitality industry. I suggest that if you want to stay in a 4 or 5 star establishment, stick to the hospitality giants in the industry like LHW. Going off the beaten track in search of it can be futile.

Follow these tips when making your holiday bookings:

  • Stick with establishments that specialise in the hospitality industry to save time and possible issues.
  • If you come across a hidden gem, research more about the holding companies or if it is run by the owner itself.
  • Local is not always lekker, if you have a bad experience – share it so others can take caution. Support businesses that want and appreciate your business.
  • Never take your eye off the main goal, that is to feel good! You want to feel 5 stars, so look for 5 star service and don’t be fooled by what is advertised.
  • Know your rights as a consumer. You have the right to question absurd costs or anything relating to your trip.
  • If you receive great service, post and share it too. We are all for supporting awesome companies and awesome people.
  • Lastly, read the reviews and notice if there is a trend of people complaining about one particular issue or person – red flag, steer clear. Full stop.

I know it may seem like a lot of work just to book a holiday but remember 90% of your experience will be before you arrive at your destination. I will be sharing all the places I have booked and my experience of each soon. Happy holiday booking!

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