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IHG and Marriott are the first major hotel chains to confirm that they’re ending their flexible cancellation policies which have been available on all bookings since the beginning of the current crisis. At the time of writing, Hilton, Hyatt, and Radisson have not yet followed suit, but with their current policies expiring at the same time as the Marriott and IHG policies expire, there’s scope for these three chains to go down the same path.
The New Policies
Both IHG and Marriott have updated their Covid-19 information pages to say that their flexible cancellation policies will no longer apply to all bookings from 1 October 2020. Instead, all non-refundable/pre-paid bookings will be subject to the usual terms and conditions of the rate booked – essentially, the hotels are reverting to the cancellation policies they had in place before the current crisis.
Here’s IHG new policy:
FOR BOOKINGS MADE PRIOR TO APRIL 6, 2020:
- Any non-refundable/pre-paid bookings for all future arrivals can be cancelled without penalty (up to 24 hours before arrival) up until September 30, 2020*.
- From October 1, 2020, all non-refundable/pre-paid bookings will be subject to the terms and conditions of the rate booked.
FOR BOOKINGS MADE FROM APRIL 6 TO SEPTEMBER 30:
- Any non-refundable/pre-paid bookings for arrivals up to and including September 30, can be cancelled without penalty (up to 24 hours before arrival) up until September 30, 2020*.
- For arrivals from October 1, 2020, all non-refundable/pre-paid bookings will be subject to the terms and conditions of the rate booked. Other rates have flexibility built in to the terms and conditions, including cancellation options. Please consult the terms and conditions of your booking for more details.
Here’s Marriott new policy:
For all Marriott International hotels world-wide, we are extending our flexible reservation policies as follows:
- For guests with existing reservations for any future arrival date, the policies that were in place at the time of reservation, or as previously communicated, will continue to be honored.
- For guests making new reservations on or after July 6 for arrival dates through September 30, we will allow the reservation to be changed or cancelled at no charge up to 24 hours before the scheduled arrival date. Reservations with pre-paid rates will be subject to the rate offer rules communicated at the time of reservation. Please note that changes to the reservation will be subject to availability and any rate differences.
- For guests making new reservations for arrival dates on or after October 1, individual hotel cancellation policies in place at the time of reservation will apply.
I cannot cross the Atlantic without having to self-isolate for 14 days at both ends of my trip, we’re seeing significant virus spikes across all continents, business travel is at one of its lowest ebbs ever and yet here we have IHG and Marriott rushing back to “normal” at the end of this month as if the crisis is nearing an end. I don’t get it.
IHG and Marriott appear to be betting on the fact that people will not only be more willing and able to travel come October but that they’ll also be prepared to pay a premium to ensure that they have a flexible reservation. At a time when the pandemic is not even close to being brought under control and when everyone seems to be working hard to conserve cash, that seems like an overly optimistic bet to be making.
If Hyatt, Radisson, and Hilton don’t follow suit then there’s very little reason for most people to choose to book with IHG and Marriott (most people neither have nor care about hotel status) so those two chains would be in line for a beating (and a deserved beating it would be).
Of course, if Hyatt, Radisson, and Hilton all follow suit then IHG and Marriott don’t stand to be punished alone, but the question then arises is this: Will any incremental cash that the chains make by charging more for flexible bookings outweigh the cash lost from people who choose to stay at home? I doubt that it will.
I genuinely don’t understand this move from IHG and Marriott as it’s blindingly obvious that hotel occupancies are going to be incredibly low this winter as people get scared off by second spikes, quarantine measures, and the threat of further job losses, so why roll back an incentive to get people to visit? If there were some glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel to suggest that the world is gradually recovering and getting back to some semblance of normality this move would be understandable but, as things stand, it just looks like a bet that offers little upside and lot of downside – that’s not a good type of bet to make.
As of 1 October 2020, IHG and Marriott are eliminating their flexible cancellation policies for all bookings and the regular rate rules that are normally in play (when the world isn’t fighting a pandemic) will take over. At the time of writing, Hilton, Hyatt, and Radisson are yet to follow this lead but that could all change in the next 24 – 48 hours.