Marriott is one of my favorite hotel loyalty programs for a number of reasons. I like that that the benefits for Marriott Gold Elite Status are solid with complimentary breakfasts, lounge access, upgrades, and late check out. I also like that Marriott Platinum Status can be obtained relatively easily with Marriott Platinum challenges and that status confers your with SPG Platinum Status, United Premier Silver and a number of perks that come along with those.
Another reason I like Marriott is because it’s got a huge foot print, especially now with the SPG merger. It’s hardly ever difficult to find a Marriott property and it’s just going to become easier to find them. But with such a huge scale, Marriott is now in a better position where it can put policies into place that are less customer-friendly and that looks like what we’re seeing now.
It’s being reported that Marriott has introduced new cancellation windows for properties that require you to cancel the 48 to 72 hours in advance. This is in contrast to previous policies that allowed you to cancel 24 hours before check-in or even just minutes before midnight on the night before your stay.
I’ve seen reports that this new policy was targeted towards properties in the North East of the US, but I’ve also seen others point out that it’s been found all across the US and I can confirm. I’ve found hotels here in Houston, Texas showing the 2 day/48 hour language.
This new change will undoubtedly affect business travelers in a negative way. With so many last minute trips and changes to itineraries happening with business travelers forcing them to alter reservations sometimes just a day removed from their scheduled travel dates, Marriott properties are going to be much less appealing.
This change is creeping towards something more analogous to the airline industry where consumers are punished for cancelling or modifying airline reservations that weren’t full fare rates. Some are speculating that we’ll even see fees to change bookings for hotels soon, although I’m not sure how legitimate those concerns are.
Personally, I don’t see this as a catastrophic change. It’s not completely unheard of for hotels to have cancellation windows that extend beyond 24 hours (although these are typically resorts or more luxurious properties).
There’s also nothing to make me think that the “oldest trick in the book” won’t work. Customers should still be able to reschedule their booking out a few weeks or months and then just cancel the booking the next day/week to avoid getting hit with no refund. Admittedly, it is annoying to have to do that but it’s a simple enough process that it makes getting around this new policy pretty easy. If and when they do away with this trick or impose a hefty fee for doing it, then this new policy will become a major issue to me.
But until then, I’m more worried about the trend that this change signals rather than the actual policy itself.