Hotels Swipe Back At The Mobile World
Some Hotels Are Starting To Charge A Fee For Last Minute Cancellations That Can Leave You Out In The Cold For A Night
by Heather Cassell
Found a better deal on a hotel while swiping through your hotel search app? WAIT! Don’t swap hotels so fast. You might end up paying for two rooms. Why? You might be charged a cancellation fee that could be up to cost of that night’s room.
Yeah, the world is changing and hotels are getting with the mobile times. Taking a tip from airlines’ change and cancellation fees, hotels are starting to test and implement last minute booking change fees from $50 to a whole night’s stay depending on if you beat the deadlines. Oh, and by the way, the deadlines to cancel that room you booked have been shortened from 72 hours, 48 hours to 24 hours. Loyalty members are exempt from these cancellation fees.
“Hotel reservations have long been way too flexible,” wrote Christopher K. Anderson, a faculty member at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, wrote in an email to Travel Weekly. He claims that hotels have been slow to become more restrictive because of competition.
What’s spurring this change? The advent of smartphones and tablets along with the last minute hotel deal apps that go with them, mobile lifestyles with instant gratification culture, and not to mention the rise of the so-called “sharing economy” with AirBnB leading the way. This year HomeAway expects to follow AirBnB’s example by add an estimated 6% “traveler’s fee” for bookings. Expedia acquired HomeAway recently.
Hotel cancellations have reached a point where they are wreaking havoc on hotels and their staff, however in the same breath, as the economy loosens up at long last, travelers aren’t quiet as worried about the nonrefundable fees and watching so closely for them or they simply are accepting it as a part of the deal to travel. After all, AirBnB is tacking on a 6% – 12% total booking fee to help its bottom line.
Chris Silcock, an executive vice president at Hilton Worldwide justified the hotelier’s imposing penalties for cancellations. Chris says that the company was taking a “measure of cancellation rates,” and that the fees are “lower than airline fees,” he tells Travel Weekly.
“This past November, we began testing a new cancellation policy at select hotels, given late cancellations have historically created challenges for both our guests and owners,” according to a statement from Hilton Worldwide to Travel Weekly. “At this time, we have collected the data we need from this test and have ended the trial to evaluate the results.”
Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International started requiring cancellations within 24 hours of the scheduled stay early last year. Miss the 6 p.m. deadline and you were stuck paying for the night. Yet, Hilton still felt the need to run a sample $50 fee test at 24 of its hotels November and December. The hotelier wouldn’t reveal more details about the trial, reports the New York Times.
Still, much like the airline industry’s billion dollar lining charging ancillary fees, hotels testing out its own version of fees are helping the industry’s bottom line.
Bjorn Hanson, a professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University, released a study last August that found that a record level of fees and surcharges at hotels was anticipated in 2015, reaching $2.47 billion. That is up from $2.35 billion a year earlier.
“With occupancy high, hotels are looking for other ways to increase revenue,” Says Bjorn.
Hilton representatives declined to say whether its cancellation policies would be further altered, while Marriott representatives declined to respond to a request for comment from Travel Weekly.
What To Watch For
It’s business not so usual when booking a room these days. So, how can Girl Roamers protect themselves from fees, be it hoteliers or private home rentals?
It goes without saying to read the small print and to know your rights before clicking the “reserve now” button. In this time of transition in the hotel biz, that means reading every time and remembering the details.
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