Dream tropical holiday turns into shambles
Fifty lose more than R500 000
THE NEWS of a cheap holiday spread like wildfire, with people lining up for the chance to spend the first week of the year on the Indian Ocean island of Bali.
Whole families rushed to book, roping in friends and colleagues who also jumped on the bandwagon.
And, in no time at all, 50 people had signed up, laying out as much as R500 000 for their holiday in paradise.
But, like most things that seem to be too good to be true, the offer at R5 700 per person for seven nights accommodation at Club Med’s Bali resort, including airfare, was not what it seemed.
Now members of a 50-strong group have launched an online campaign against a Joburg businesswoman after their dream holiday collapsed, leaving them out of pocket and angry.
But they are not the only people who have fallen victim to the cheap holiday promise, with complaints on hellopeter.com, a consumerism website, coming from people who said holidays they’d paid for in Mauritius and Zanzibar never happened.
Group members in Joburg, Cape Town and East London say the rates offered by Pioneers African Travel and its founder Stephanie Kohler surprised them, but they were not concerned as Kohler had come recommended through friends.
Their dream trip came crashing down days before Christmas when tickets failed to arrive – and their calls to Club Med revealed that either deposits had not been paid in full, or they were not even booked on the trip.
Now furious members of the group have vowed to expose Kohler and at least three people have laid charges. Police confirmed that the matter was being investigated by the Commercial Crimes Unit, but declined to comment further.
Some victims have set up a website naming and shaming Kohler. The site, written in the first person, looks like Stephanie Kohler’s homepage – but in fact highlights her alleged activities.
Saul Kropman, an online marketer from Joburg who was due to go on the Bali trip, said the site had been launched to inform people not to use “this woman’s services”.
Last week, the site was picked up on by users of Twitter,, and widely re-tweeted across the popular social media platform.
Hellopeter.com also hosts 10 complaints about Kohler, with the fake site linking directly to them.
Spyros Bylos, who lives in Oaklands, Joburg, said he had paid her R48 420 for himself and his wife and two children.
“I was looking forward to an exotic location, but instead I’ve got uninterrupted views of mine dumps and highways,” he said.
Club Med reservations team leader Naomi Govender confirmed that an inquiry for over 50 people for their Bali resort in January had been received.
But deadlines for deposit payments had been missed and eventually there were only about 16 people booked.
Attempts to reach Kohler through numbers provided on the website of Pioneers African Travel were unsuccessful.
Her attorney, Werner Bruyns, said his client regarded the situation as “unfortunate”, and he had instructions that “each and every one” of those involved in the Bali trip would be refunded.
ACCUSED: Stephanie Kohler