Marriott and Starwood Hotels quietly implemented a new cancellation policy in the Americas last week. Starting on June 15, most hotel rooms cancelled within 48 hours of the booking will be subject to a one day room charge. Formerly, the policy allowed for cancellations up until 24 hours before the reservation.
“The revised policy allows us to make rooms available to guests that would have otherwise gone unoccupied due to a last-minute cancellation,” a Marriott spokesperson said in a statement.
The new policy is being implemented at properties in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America at all Marriott brands with the exception of Design Hotels, the spokesperson said.
“The change: While cancellation policies vary by hotel, hotels whose policy is to allow guests to cancel their room reservations on the day before arrival without incurring a fee are faced with a significant number of unsold rooms due to last minute cancellations. Guests will now be required to cancel their room reservation by midnight 48 hours prior to arrival to avoid a fee. This will allow hotels a better chance to make the rooms available to guests seeking last minute accommodations.”
The new policy kicked in on June 15. The cancellation window may still vary by property, and the Marriott spokesperson urged guests to check the fine print in their reservations.
Some hotels, as reported by CNN Money, are even extending the cancellation policy to 72 hours.
Experiments with an extended cancellation window have taken place intermittently by Marriott and other chains over the years.
Marriott’s move appears to be targeted at better-managing inventory for last-minute bookings. Hotels with open, unlimited cancellation policies allow travelers to book multiple rooms for different potential scenarios and cancel unneeded inventory at the last second — leaving the hotel with an empty room and no room revenue. But tightening up this cancellation window will discourage this sort of behavior and effectively guarantee the property a tighter flow of revenue.
Compared to the hotel industry at large, Marriott’s new policy also seems to be relatively standard. Both Hilton and Hyatt have similar cancellation windows. It’s a sign that more hotels are attempting to modify consumer behavior regarding hotel bookings and cancellations. But will it instead push more travelers to choose to book last-minute on sites such as Hotel Tonight and others?
For many travelers, however, this is a difficult change. “More often than not I book hotels within three days of arrival, so not being able to adjust reservations within that timeframe just sucks, plain and simple,” complained one blogger. Other frequent travelers with similar, ambiguous or difficult-to-manage schedules may also be adversely affected.
Still, the new policy from Marriott seems to be in line with the rest of the industry and is a good way to protect hotel operators and revenue. Travelers unhappy with the new policy will simply need to adapt — or book elsewhere.