Skift Take

The issues the U.S. Department of Justice raised with Marriott weren't particularly unique to the hotel operator and are actually pretty common in the industry. This deal might lead to sector-wide change regarding accessible rooms.

Marriott has agreed to a deal with the U.S. Justice Department to address barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in booking accessible rooms.

The deal, reached quietly last week, ensured compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) across hundreds of Marriott-branded U.S. hotels. [See the settlement agreement embedded below.]

Marriott denied wrongdoing and admitted no liability, and paid a $50,000 civil penalty.

Why the Marriott Deal Matters

Many other hotel companies of all sizes will seek to follow Marriott’s adoption of practices to fit U.S. guidelines. The deal may help end a period of lack of agreement and legal clarity about the ADA guidelines.

The most critical issues appeared to be prioritizing that accessible rooms are set aside for the guests who most need them, displaying that inventory across all distribution channels (including online travel agencies), and adequately and accurately detailing which features accessible rooms have.

The Marriott-DOJ Backstory

The Department of Justice (DOJ), via the Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, investigated Marriott’s reservation practices following complaints from individuals with disabilities.

Marriott contended it complied with all ADA requirements, and noted that its franchised hotels are independently owned and operated.

The DOJ had some different views. One was that Marriott’s reservations system often only said if a room was ADA-compliant, without details, while the DOJ contended that more details on each room were needed to comply with the law.

What’s more: Before October 2022, travelers allegedly couldn’t guarantee accessible room reservations through online travel agencies such as Expedia.

The hotel operator will pay a $50,000 civil penalty under the deal. It also agreed to report its compliance with providing a minimum number of accessible rooms at its properties and track complaints made via its call centers. The Justice Department has closed its investigation.

Marriott said it would make several changes to its reservation system. A few are listed below:

More Prominent Listing of Accessible Rooms

Marriott aims to list all accessible rooms through its booking system. This inventory will be available for booking on each hotel’s website and Marriott’s site and app. Listings will detail the accessible features in guest rooms.

Distribution Tech Changes

Accessible rooms will be made available for booking through the largest online travel agencies, such as Expedia and Booking.com, “for the first time.”

Loyalty program changes

The Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program will begin to let members use reward points to book accessible rooms.

Following is the settlement agreement:

Accommodations Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of hotels and short-term rental sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets, including international and regional hotel brands, hotel REITs, hotel management companies, alternative accommodations, and timeshares.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more hotels and short-term rental financial sector performance.

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: accesiblilty, accessibility, accessible travel, department of justice, doj, future of lodging, justice department, lawsuits, marriott, marriott bonvoy, Marriott International, online bookings, online travel agencies, online travel newsletter, regulation, regulations, regulators, very online

Photo credit: A guest room with an accessible roll-in shower at a Fairfield Inn and Suites in San Antonio, Texas. Marriott

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