Having your hotel overbooked: Avila Beach Hotel Curaçao

After 1,5 years of limited travel opportunities, we are back on the road. With vaccinations in our arms and triple covid tests, we have hopped on a plane and flew to the Caribbean Island of Curaçao. While we were attracted by the blue ocean, beautiful beaches and endless island activities, our first vacation after covid ran into trouble right from the get go.

We ran into issues that you would only expect during peak season overtourism days that we all came to know before the pandemic. The problem: our wonderful hotel, the Avila Beach Hotel in Curaçao, has been overbooked. The room type that we chose, a hotel room with ocean view, wasn’t available. Without any warning we were dumped into a ground floor room that looks out at green vegetation and an adjacent concrete hotel building. Nothing about this hotel room was close to the beautiful ocean view we have been looking forward to for months. Instead of writing a blog about Avila’s beautiful ocean views we are on the ground floor of a side building overlooking concrete and plants.

Avila Beach Hotel booked versus reality

Booked versus reality. On the left what was booked online at Avila Beach Hotel, on the right what we got. Would you accept this?

We ran into issues that you would only expect during peak season overtourism days that we all came to know before the pandemic. The problem: our wonderful hotel, the Avila Beach Hotel in Curaçao, has been overbooked. The room type that we chose, a hotel room with ocean view, wasn’t available. Without any warning we were dumped into a ground floor room that looks out at green vegetation and an adjacent concrete hotel building. Nothing about this hotel room was close to the beautiful ocean view we have been looking forward to for months. Instead of writing a blog about Avila’s beautiful ocean views we are on the ground floor of a side building overlooking concrete and plants.

As this is obviously not what we booked, we needed to deal with the situation. At the reception desk, the staff was neither friendly nor keen on coming up with a solution. So how to deal with a situation like this? What to do next? What to do when your hotel is overbooked and your chosen room, for which you might have paid premium like us, isn’t awarded to you? As a platinum elite member at both Accor and Marriott this is a completely new experience for us. In the remainder of this post you can read about our thoughts and actions while dealing with the situation.

Why we chose for Avila Beach Hotel in Curaçao?

We deliberately chose this hotel because of the recommendations about the views and the hotel’s beaches. My father, who was a business traveller his entire career, told us that Dutch ministers and diplomats opted for Avila while there there are plenty of other hotels to choose from. We even chose the Avila over one of the Marriott chain hotels where we would have been treated to lots of benefits as an elite member. If we knew we would stay in this room, with no view whatsoever, we would have chosen another hotel for sure.

So what to do when your hotel is overbooked? Surprisingly there is very little information about this. But before we go into the T&C’s and local law, let’s explain in more detail what happened.

Why can a hotel get overbooked? What does it mean for you?

What does it mean when a hotel is overbooked? An overbooked hotel simply means that the hotel sold its rooms more often than it has rooms available. When your room is overbooked it tells you that another guest was deemed more important than you. Like airlines hotels have guests cancelling last minute or not showing up, overbooking is a (risky) strategy to mitigate this effect.

So what happened?

Before we were informed about the room change, our entire check in proceeded as normal. We were only informed about the room change at the end of the process. Too late to my liking. Only when the keys were handed over, reception informed us about the downgrade by saying ‘we had to change your room, I hope you are OK with that’. This was after we were already charged for the room, plus possible extras. This took away lots of available credit on my credit card, limiting our possibilities to book a last minute alternative hotel.

It was a given. For the next 8 nights, we received another room. I asked if we had seaview and reception answered ‘partially’ and ‘maybe you want to check it out?’. We decided to do so, perhaps it sounded worse than it actually was. We took our suitcases and made our way to our new room. The room was an absolute disappointment and not at all what we were looking forward to or what we paid for. Only if you jumped up high you could see a glimpse of the ocean.

At this time, no other options were given and there was no reason given for the involuntary downgrade. Neither was any compensation or apology given. The room change was communicated as a given. For the next 8 nights, we received a disappointing room.

The most annoying part of the story is that the problem wasn’t made clear to is during check in or before our credit card was pre-authorized. After we were handed the keys, we were informed that our room type was changed without any further explanation or apologies. We discovered what this meant upon arrival in our room. As we walked in, we noticed we had no ocean view whatsoever while we paid premium to get this view.

The room itself was actually OK. The Avila Beach Hotel is a quality resort with nice clean rooms and it is already a privilege that we can afford the luxury of staying im Curaçao while the pandemic is still raging in many parts of the world. The hotel facilities are also good as the beach offers a nice pool at one of its two private beaches, quality food and an overall positive vibe. The problem was solely that we paid for a room type and didn’t get what we paid for. So the challenge at hand was getting what we paid for.

Surprisingly little information available about overbooked hotels

So how to get another room when you are overbooked? If you go online there is lots of information about involuntary downgrades of travel classes at airlines but nothing about hotels. Unfortunately, our rights didn’t seem so clear cut. Researching things online didn’t bring us ant further either. We found one blog about avoiding downgrades and we found one discussion on Quora.

Other blogs were also mostly focussed on either avoiding situations like this or how to squeeze an extra buck out of it. So without being a lawyer, it became clear to me, that it comes down to the terms and conditions of the hotel which I agreed to during the booking process. Unfortunately, these T&C’s cannot be found for our hotel. The Avila Beach Hotel doesn’t have them or they are very wel hidden. Even after starting a fake booking for much later this year, the terms and conditions at the Avila Beach Hotel only include information on credit card payments, cancellation policies and privacy. O yes, also something about pets, check in times and prices being subject to change. But nothing about guaranteed room types or downgrades.

Avila Beach Hotel's seemingly has no or little terms & conditions

So we are in this situation without any clear T&C’s and no knowledge of (local) law. Because who does in the Caribbean? Even if you are a lawyer, which we are not. But while doing some of my research, I got an eery feeling that we were targeted because of our weak legal position that was especially weak because we booked directly at the Avila Beach Hotel.

Let me explain why I have that feeling: many tourists coming to the Avila Beach Resort book package deals through Dutch or American tour operators. All these package deals come with clear T&C’s and guarantees for situations like this. All these tourists enjoy some sort of ‘protection’ because they can complaint to their tour operator which the hotel then has to deal with. Since we didn’t book a package deal from the Netherlands, it feels like the Avila Beach Hotel signaled us out on purpose. Although I am not a lawyer, it feels like our position is seemingly weaker because we booked directly at the Avila Beach Hotel that is extremely vague on T&C’s. The hotel of course knows that unlike the other hotel guests, we cannot get in touch with our tour operator or hotel booking website. We also don’t fall under ANVR rights that protect all Dutch travellers from malpractices like overbooking.

The La Belle Alliance Wing at Avila Beach Resort

The La Belle Alliance Wing in which we booked our room with ocean view.

Avila Beach Hotel Curacao - Ocean Front Blues Room

The Avila has beautiful rooms. 
But will you get them once you arrive? 

What options do you have when your hotel room is overbooked?

So what to do now? The hotel has put us in an uncomfortable position and we seem to be the only ones with this problem. We just want to enjoy our vacation and don’t want to deal with stuff like this. That is why we went from being annoyed into a ‘let’s resolve this’ mode. At this time we believed we had four options that all travellers in this situation will have:

  1. Accept the room without a view.
  2. Leave the hotel for another hotel.
  3. Try to negotiate a better room, preferably the one that we booked.
  4. Negotiate a discount.

We decided to go for option 3 and in case it failed, resort to option 2 or 4.

After inspecting our room again, we informed reception that we were not willing to stay in a room without a view. We paid for the view and like all travellers, we want to get what we paid for. We also asked why we were not given the room that we booked and were now informed that the hotel was in fact overbooked, something we assumed from the beginning.

 

What we ended up doing..

At the Avila Beach Hotel, the reception staff tried to maximise profit by trying to get us to accept a lesser room. They did so by giving us as little options as possible and letting us wait. After waiting for some time and after us complaining multiple times, the reception desk finally offered us an alternative: we would get the booked room on the second night of our 8 night stay. That was the best the hotel could do. No compensation, upgrade or apologies were offered at this time.  Further than giving us what we paid for 7 out of 8 nights, the staff was not willing to cooperate whatsoever at this time. They made us feel like it was our problem that the hotel sold more room than it had available.

We once again refused and were asked by reception to wait even longer. The hotel was clearly doing its best to have us accept this option rather than finding a room with a view for the entire stay, hoping we would accept the not so great alternative.

After playing the ‘reception waiting game’ for another 30 minutes or so, a new alternative was offered: we would get the room that we booked on the second night of our stay but now a compensation was offered: a two course meal at the hotel’s restaurant plus two non-alcoholic beverages.

By this time we were getting tired: the hotel was winning the ‘let them wait and they will accept’ game. With a long flight in our body and 6 hours of time difference, we just wanted to start our vacation and not having the hotel make their problem our problem.

Although the hassle of changing rooms on the second was not what we wanted, we agreed with this option. The unwillingness of the hotel to offer an upgrade or better alternative left us without hope: this was the best option they would offer us. After agreeing, we finally received an apology for all the inconveniences. Now we have to wait and see what room we will get tomorrow.

Aftermath

After one day, we switched to the new room. This new room was as we booked and expected. The hotel has also read this blog and approached us directly. The Avila Beach Hotel recognised the mistakes made and apologised. We also received further compensation for the inconveniences. In the end we left as happy customers.

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